Swindon council completes community investment round for second solar farm

Construction is set to begin on Swindon Borough Council’s second solar farm to be funded by a unique council solar bond, which raised over £2.4 million from more than 800 investors in just six weeks.

Following the success of its first investment offer, which raised £1.8 million from community investors to co-fund the Common Farm development at Wroughton, the council launched a second offer in November.

The bonds closed on 23 December after selling out over a month early, with the remaining £3 million needed to meet construction costs of the Chapel Farm solar park being invested directly by Swindon Borough Council.

Building work is set to begin next week (9 January) on the council-owned former landfill site at Blunsdon, where the new 5MW solar farm will be erected over a ten-week building schedule.

According to Steve Cains, head of power solutions at Public Power Solutions, a wholly owned company of the council which is to develop the project, the success of the public offer has shown that solar power remains popular among community investors.

“We’re extremely pleased with the outstanding success of Swindon’s second solar bond offer, which has proved attractive to over 800 individual investors who understand not only the environmental benefits of solar power but also the financial model,” he said.

Working with and Abundance Investment, the bonds were the first solar energy investment eligible to be held tax-free directly in a green energy Innovative Finance ISA (individual savings account) following a recent change in government legislation.

Cains added: “The early closing of the bond offer was a great Christmas present for everyone involved – and now we’re looking forward to a happy green New Year as we complete this innovative project and help Swindon move closer to its target of powering the equivalent of every home with renewables by 2020.”

The council plans to install 200MW of renewable capacity by 2020, with Chapel Farm taking it’s figure to 167MW – over 80% of the target.

Profits from the solar farm are expected to make a contribution towards community initiatives while also funding a council manifesto pledge to build a sound barrier along the A419 dual carriageway.