Press release: First split-ownership solar farm launches in the UK

Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy’s 5 MWp community-owned solar array at the Braydon Manor Farm will now be part of a joint 9.1 MWp solar scheme thanks to the Government’s 2015 shared ownership guidance.

Swindon, September 17th, 2015 – Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy (WWCE) successfully raised over £5.6 million to build a 5 MWp community-owned solar array at Braydon Manor Farm located near Swindon, Wiltshire. Just over £2.9 million was raised via a public share offer placed on positive investment platform Ethex and the rest through a loan from Triodos Bank. There was huge support locally as 87% of the 396 investors are from Wiltshire or surrounding counties. They all are now members of WWCE. The project was initially developed by Public Power Solutions, part of Swindon Borough Council.

In March 2015 the government issued new guidance on community ownership models and WWCE saw an opportunity to maximise the scheme’s potential. The guidance makes it possible for a community organisation to work with another company and build more than one renewable energy project on a single site. This reduces the overhead by splitting the costs of the grid connection.

WWCE Chair Lesley Bennett says: “We are pleased by this split-ownership scheme. A local supporter of community renewable energy agreed to buy the privately owned 4.1 MWp solar site next to ours at the Braydon Manor Farm. We then had to overcome a series of legal, planning and technical issues and we are now building the first shared grid connection solar site in the country.”

Commenting on the benefits of the deal Jeff Kenna, Director of WWCE says: “We will now be able to generate more renewable energy for our money and create a bigger impact for the community. We have this year raised £25,000 for our local community fund and over the lifetime of the project we hope to raise over £2,000,000, which will be re-invested in the local community by financing projects put forward and chosen by WWCE members and local people.”

WWCE is the only community energy company in the country to be created by a Wildlife Trust. WWCE’s ecological management plan will establish a wildflower meadow on the site and create a bank of biodiversity to enrich surrounding farmland.

Lesley adds: “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.  We hope for their continuing support on our next scheme.”

About the WWCE solar array:

Construction of WWCE’s community-owned solar array started in September 2015. Over 18,000 solar panels will be installed across 18 acres with a total capacity of 5 MWp, enough to provide energy for over 1,400 homes and save 2,500 tonnes of carbon a year. WWCE plans to start selling electricity to the grid by January 2016.

Power Public Solutions and Solarcentury are the primary partners in the development of the WWCE PV solar array.

James Owen, Commercial Director of Public Power Solutions, comments: “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 deliver financial and ecological benefits locally. We are proud to have been part of it.”

Frans van den Heuvel, CEO at Solarcentury, adds: “We are pleased to be delivering another solar project for an energy co-operative. Both this solar farm and the solar farm we connected last year for West Solent Solar Co-operative prove that it’s possible to create clean energy power stations around the UK owned by local people.”

Mongoose Energy and Bath & West Community Energy also played an important role in the project; they supported WWCE to raise community funds and secure the project rights from the developer.

Braydon Manor Site Map