The collaboration between independent trust Power to Change and social investment firm Big Society Capital aims to move six to eight existing solar farms into community hands over the next 12 months.

It will give local community groups up to three years to raise the funds necessary to take over the sites from private firms.

The programme been set up in response to the Government’s slashing of feed-in-tariffs, a move which is claimed to have curtailed the development of community energy solar projects.

Commenting on the announcement, Power to Change chief executive Vidhya Alakeson said: “We are really excited to be investing part of our endowment in community energy assets in this pioneering approach in partnership with Big Society Capital.

“By getting further involved in this sector, Power to Change is demonstrating how community businesses are stepping in to address market failure and creating assets that really benefit their communities.”

Doing things differently

The project has kickstarted with the purchase of the 5MW Newton Downs solar farm near Plymouth from renewable electricity supplier Good Energy.  

Through the partnership vehicle, Community-Owned Renewable Energy Partners (CORE), the site will eventually be handed over to local group Yealm Community Energy. The installation is expected to generate more than £1.4m for local community organisations over its lifetime.

Good Energy chief executive Juilet Davenport said: “We’re thrilled to be able to pass the Newton Downs site back to community hands, as part of our purpose to do things differently in the energy sector and supporting our vision of a cleaner, greener future.

“We will continue working with the Newton Downs site having committed to an ongoing purchase of power from them.”

‘Fantastic opportunity’

Community energy is seen as a crucial method of integrating renewables and energy efficiency into the national gird, while also saving the UK public money through reduced fuel poverty.  

Last summer, Mongoose Energy finalised a deal to finance the UK’s biggest community energy project, a ‘solar plus battery’ farm in Warwickshire.

Ahead of that deal, Mongoose boss Mark Kenber told edie of the “fantastic opportunity” for community energy to fundamentally change the way energy is generated, owned and supplied across the country.

George Ogleby

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