Community solar farm share issue hits £4 million
The Westmill community solar farm project which launched a share issue recently is now on the way towards becoming the world's largest solar power cooperative having attracted £5.95 million in funding from potential investors. A total of 1,600 people applied for shares according to the project's website, most of those from Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and neighbouring counties.
The 5 MW solar farm project, located just outside Swindon, allowed investors to put forward sums ranging from £250 to £20,000 as investments into the project, taking just six weeks to reach its target. The organisers of the share issue say that the offer is now fully subscribed with many applications having been received at the last minute. One of the applications was made on behalf of a baby who is currently just five days old.
"It's been a hectic six weeks since we launched at the end of June, particularly in the last week as hundreds of applications came in each day" said the project's director, Adam Twine. "There is clearly a real desire for this type of opportunity and I hope other communities will feel encouraged by this tremendous response to find ways to set up their own projects."
The farm itself has already been constructed and consists of over 21,000 polycrystalline solar cells generating a capacity of 4.8 GWh of electricity annually. That is enough energy to supply 1400 homes and offset around 2000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. The next stage is to clear all the applications through the bank before buying the farm outright from its backers Blue Energy. Most of the investors, around 60 percent, live in the local area, within 40 kilometers of the farm.
The solar farm covers 30 acres of ground and is therefore the biggest community owned solar farm in the world.
"We are delighted to have achieved what we believe is a record breaking share sale for this type of project," said Philip Wolfe, the chair of the Cooperative. "We are now working to bring together the balance of capital required, and we look forward to concluding the eventual purchase of the project in October. Community ownership of a photovoltaic installation of this scale in the UK used to be just a dream; now we're making the world's largest co-operative solar park a reality."
All the new members of the cooperative will have an equal say in how the project is run with a 'one member, one vote' policy in place.
"They will also have the satisfaction of being part of an exciting project that is breaking records and making history" said Mr Wolfe.