Image: Yealm Community Energy.

Six community-run solar farms have advanced £195,000 in community benefit funds, with the money to go towards supporting their local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The solar farms are those that have all received investment from and are supported by Community Owned Renewable Energy Partners (CORE).

The early funding release is to tackle the local impacts of COVID-19, with CORE – alongside its advisors Environment Finance – engaging with its local community partners to plan this.

It will be up to the community energy groups to individually decide how to best distribute the funds locally.

The funding is comprised of early payments from the annual community benefit funds, alongside additional top up funds.

The 3.2MW Sheriffhales solar farm has received £50,489, the highest amount followed by the 5MW Orchard 2 farm, which received £46,199.

The 10MW Twemlows farm received £20,264 and the 5MW Brynwhilach farm received £20,000.

Lastly, Newton Downs – a 5MW solar farm near Plymouth – received £35,761 and the 7.3MW Creacombe solar farm received £21,939.

Solar Power Portal recently spoke to Yealm Community Energy about Creacombe’s status as the UK’s first subsidy-free community solar farm, with around half of its capacity unsubsidised.

Of the funding Yealm is contributing, £10,000 is being made available immediately, with £2,000 allocated to each of the five parishes it supports.

Funds have been allocated to the Holbeton Covid-19 Emergency Food Welfare Group, and the Newton and Noss Coronavirus Emergency Fund.

A further £20,000 will be made available for additional support measures as needed, Yealm said, with the community energy group and the community fund to consult with Parish Councils and other agencies and individuals to decide as to when and if these funds are released, and the mechanism for disbursement.

Additionally, a third tranche of £18,000 can also be made available if needed, Yealm said.

CORE – a social investment partnership between Big Society Capital and Power to Change – aims to bring solar farms into community ownership, delivering what it describes as “lasting local community benefits”. It has invested in nine solar farms with a combined capacity of c.40MW, and is planning to transfer these into full community ownership by 2022.

The first investment offers for the community solar farms are expected to be launched later in the summer.

André Sarvarian, associate director at Environmental Finance said: “In this uncertain period, the value of a community owned infrastructure asset that can generate a stable cash flow for the community is reinforced – the original hypothesis of CORE was to embed these valuable assets into community hands to make those communities more resilient and able to react to local social need – this early and substantial release of funds goes a long way to proving that hypothesis.”

Community solar appears to be rallying in light of COVID-19, with a separate £100,000 raised by community-owned solar projects from surplus generation from the Community for Renewables’ collection of four community energy farms.

In addition, the Community Energy Scheme has given its members a payment break for April, May and June, saving them over £200,000 in energy costs.