Construction begins on Britain's first 'split-ownership' solar farm
The first UK solar farm to be part-owned by both community and commercial groups is now being built at Braydon Manor Farm near Swindon.
Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy (WWCE) will own 5MW of the 9.1MW project, with the remaining 4.1MW under private ownership.
To pay for its share, the WWCE raised over £2.9m from a public share offer, with 87% of the investment coming from Wiltshire or neighbouring counties.
The scheme will generate a community fund of over £2m to support the work of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and be reinvested in other community projects over the 25-year lifetime of the solar farm.
WWCE chair Lesley Bennett added: “As a community benefit company we want our members to think of their investment as a contribution to both the local community and the local environment.”
Construction has begun at the Braydon Manor solar farm! pic.twitter.com/f2JME8v9Qa— WWCEnergy (@WWCEnergy) September 18, 2015
The 9.1MW project was developed by Public Power Solutions, a wholly-owned company of Swindon Borough Council, which has now developed over 65MW of ground-mounted solar around Swindon.
Public Power Solutions commercial director James Owens said: “This is a perfect example of a shared ownership solar project – with the private and public sector and local community all working together successfully to help meet local and national renewable energy targets and cut carbon emissions, as well as achieving great local financial and ecological benefits. We are proud to have been part of it.”
The previous coalition Government made community energy a policy priority but successive policies from the Conservative Government, particular cuts to the Feed-in Tariff, are likely to hit community energy hardest, according to ministers from Scotland and Wales.
Despite the cutback, several community schemes have gone ahead in recent months, in Barnsley, Edinburgh and Bristol. More than three quarters of UK households would support renewable energy projects such as wind turbines and solar farms if the profits generated benefitted the local community, a recent poll from Co-operative Energy found.