3.2MW Shropshire solar farm comes into 100% community-ownership. Image: Pxfuel NC.

The village of Sheriffhales, Shropshire has completed the acquisition of a 3.2MW solar farm to bring the array into 100% community-ownership.

Sheriffhales Community Energy launched a community bond offer earlier this year to raise funds to bring a solar farm on the edge of the village into local community ownership. The bond offer raised £565,000 with a further £3 million secured from a long-term bank loan from the Bristol-based ethical bank Triodos.

The community solar array is situated on the outskirts of the Shropshire village and consists of 11,976 panels and is able to generate around 984,000kWh of green electricity each year.

With the new finance arrangements, the community expects to generate around £1 million surplus for community projects over the solar farm’s expected operating life through to 2040.

“Sheriffhales is now one of the few villages in the UK to own its own solar farm. We are a rural parish with an agrarian economy – we don’t have a village pub, shop or bus,” said Peter Bonsall, chair and trustee of Sheriffhales Community Energy.

“Bringing the solar farm into community ownership will bring an income to the parish that is more than the parish council precept. We will be using those funds to help address some of the challenges we face as a rural community, to tackle fuel poverty and other urgent village needs.”

According to the community organisation, the solar array has exceeded the long-term average generation projects over the last six years by 5% and is generating over £400,000 per year in revenue.

The solar project has a range of biodiversity and wildlife protection measures. For instance, the land under and around the solar panels maintains species of grasses, herbs and wildflowers. Bat and bird boxes are also located around the site.

“Projects like this clearly illustrate the importance of community energy, and the impact that funds generated can have for a rural community. We’ve been pleased to support the people of Sheriffhales on their journey towards full community ownership,” said Jake Burnyeat, director at Communities for Renewables CIC, manager of the project.

Community owned solar projects have increased in popularity as a means to support the renewable generation in localised areas. Plymouth Energy Community (PEC) revealed in 2021 that it was working with Plymouth City Council to develop a community-owned solar farm.

The solar project would be located at an old landfill site, with PEC having completed a feasibility study with support from a government grant. The results of this showed the project could generate 14,284MWh per year while providing a 10% improvement in biodiversity.