As part of Herefordshire’s h.Energy Week Leominster Community Solar Co-op will launch the first share issue for community ownership of its large solar photovoltaic array on the roof of the Bridge Street Sports Centre in Leominster. The 49kW array is expected to generate enough solar electricity to save approximately 22 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

A total of £150,000 needs to be raised through community investment to fund the installation of the solar array, which is to be installed by local company Southern Solar.

Ben Whittle from Southern Solar said, “Southern Solar has a strong tradition of working at a grass roots community level, from Transition Groups and Housing Associations through to the pioneering Lewes Solar Co-Op in Sussex. We are delighted to be part of the Halo initiative in Herefordshire.

 “Living in Herefordshire, I have been very keen to get a community-owned renewables project off the ground for some time.  Southern Solar are looking forward to seeing a public building benefitting from the tariff scheme which so many private businesses and homes are taking advantage of.”

Andy Talbot of Halo Leisure, a local social enterprise that runs the sports centre said, “We’re delighted by this opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint and electricity bills and provide our members and local people with a green and ethical investment opportunity.”

The share issue, which should also be eligible for Enterprise Investment Scheme tax relief, will be open to any interested party. Investment levels begin at £250 with the limit being set at £20,000. If the scheme is oversubscribed, priority will be given to those living closest to the sports centre.

Investors should see returns averaging around 6% per year over the 25-year feed-in tariff, with their original lump sum being paid back at the end of this period. The electricity generated by the system will be used by the sports centre, or when not needed, fed into the National Grid.

Eithne George at Sharenergy said, “Community ownership means that local people have the opportunity to financially benefit from renewable energy on their doorstep.  Investing in this scheme will generally give people better returns than their savings accounts are offering and they know that without them, the project wouldn’t happen”.

Herefordshire’s h.Energy Week begins on 17th October 2011.