Proposals to install a 2.4MW solar farm on a gravel pit field close to the New Forest National Park have been approved by planning officials.

West Solent Solar Co-operative is turning to the local community to help raise the necessary £2.5 million construction costs to install the solar farm when it launches a public share offering later this month.

The community co-op has already pre-accredited December 2013’s feed-in tariff (FiT) rate with Ofgem, meaning that the site will have to be energised by 30 June 2014 in order to receive the pre-approved rate. In addition to the FiT revenue, the community co-op states that all the electricity generated from the site will be sold via a power purchase agreement (PPA).

The site will sit on five hectares of newly restored field, following its use for gravel extraction and, subsequently, landfill. The group is placing an increased emphasis on the biodiversity of the site, committing to planting new hedges around the whole site as well as seeding wildflower meadows throughout the solar farm.

West Solent Solar Co-operative predicts that the 20-year annual average return will be around 8.5%. The community co-op has also pledged to set aside £5,000 every year starting from the fifth year of the project into a community fund that will work to support local sustainability projects.