Community-planned solar farm plans share offer

Posted at May 31, 2012 » By : » Categories : News » Comments Off on Community-planned solar farm plans share offer

A 5 MW solar farm just outside Swindon in the south west of England is on the verge of becoming the country’s first community-led solar project.

The 30-acre Westmill solar farm, which is home to over 21,000 polycrystalline solar cells producing 4.8 GWh of electricity a year, is giving the local community the option to buy shares in the development.

Potential investors will be able to put from £250 to £20,000 into the solar farm, which will produce enough electricity to power 1400 homes and offset around 2000 tonnes of CO2 a year.

The director of Westmill Solar, Adam Twine, a local organic farmer, says the aim is to make the deal as accessible as possible as a long-term investment to any individual or organisation. Elsewhere in Europe the community ownership model is more commonplace and in Denmark 23% of all renewable energy is community-owned.

“This will probably be the only opportunity to invest in a solar project of this scale,” he says. “It’s not very often you have a chance to do something where you can make money and have a directly positive impact on climate change.”

The solar farm has been up and running since last August and is receiving the feed-in tariff from the government, but Twine says he expects to be oversubscribed with potential investors.

The organisers hope to raise £4 million equity from the share offer and is also working with investment bank Investec on a bond for the debt required to purchase the £15 million project from seed investor Blue Energy.

The share offer will be officially opened on June 23 by Minister for Culture, Communications the Creative Industries, Ed Vaizey, and run until the end of July unless it is oversubscribed.

Twine has also set-up a community-owned wind farm on the same site, which raised £4.3 million in its share offer in 2007 and has 2300 members.

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Related stories:
UK government promises ‘certainty’ with fresh solar FIT cuts in August (25-May)
Solar power closer to competitiveness than realised, says report (23-May)
UK’s largest community-owned wind farm seeks go ahead (10-May)
Leading solar companies join force to expand deployment (4-May)

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