The Council will meet next Wednesday (10 February) to vote on the Swindon Community Solar Farm project, which would be the first of its kind in the UK to allow residents to invest directly in council solar bonds.

The proposed 5MW farm would cost £4.8m to construct, with £3m coming from the council’s investment, and the remaining £1.8m from community investors. Investors and the council would reap 35% of the profits, with 65% going towards local community initiatives.

The solar farm would generate enough electricity to supply the equivalent of 1,200 typical homes and save around 2000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

“For years, companies have been trying to find ways to make investing more accessible and understandable,” said Swindon Borough Council cabinet member for transport and sustainability Dale Heenan.

“Swindon Borough Council’s approach to solar farms means that local residents can invest as little as £5 or more than £5,000. Whether they are providing for a child’s future, their own retirement, or just for a rainy day, our approach is democratic finance in action.”

The bonds would be provided in partnership with Abundance Investment, which has successfully raised £15m for 16 different projects in the past three years. If approved next Wednesday, the investment offer is expected to be formally launched next month.

“The majority of profits will fund community projects,” added Heenan.

“We have the right partner in Abundance, a compelling case to show benefits to the local community, and local residents who invest should receive a better return than a normal bank saving accounts. This could be the model all councils use in the future for community investment projects.”

Swindon has an aim to install 200MW of renewable capacity by 2020, enough to meet the equivalent energy requirements of every home in the borough. A total of 140MW has already been built or is being planned.

Brad Allen

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