Westmill Solar Co-operative has finalised its acquisition of Westmill Solar Park, making the £16.5 million project the UK’s first, and, it claims, the world’s largest, co-operatively owned solar farm.
Located outside Shrivenham on the Oxfordshire/Wiltshire border, the 5MW solar farm has been built on a 30 acre former airfield in July 2011. It utilises more than 20,000 solar panels which helped to generate 4,900 MWh of electricity in the past year.
The acquisition of Westmiss Solar Park involved one of the most successful share offers of its kind. The £4 million share offer was launched in June 2012 and attracted around 1,650 investors. All shares in the project were snapped up within six weeks and due to its popularity, the offer was oversubscribed by around 50%. However, a private share placement was launched to enable more involvement from the local community.
The share offer raised nearly £6 million and is supplemented by a multi-million pound loan from Investec Bank. This loan is expected to be transferred to a pension fund bond in the near future.
Commenting on the project’s successful completion, founder and director of Westmill Solar Co-operative Adam Twine, said: “Its’ been a real team effort to have pulled this off in the face of shifting government policy and tight timescales. Westmill represents the best of what low carbon investment and renewable energy can offer and hopefully will inspire others to realise that when we get together we can make change happen and can engage positively with the threat of climate change.”
Chairman of Westmill Solar Co-operative Philip Wolfe added: “Solar power will become the world’s greatest energy source in our lifetime; heralding a new era of sustainable and ‘democratic’ energy supply. As the success of Westmill shows, solar energy enables ordinary people to produce clean power, not only on their roof tops, but also at utility scale. I am pretty sure that this is the largest community owned solar power station in the world.”