Half a megawatt of existing solar has been taken over by Community Power Cornwall (CPC) as the community energy sector continues to show signs of its buying power following the £1.34 million purchase of a developer.
CPC, Cornwall’s first community-owned energy co-operative, bought West Country Renewables Limited in the first deal to see a Cornish community energy society buy an existing company.
With the sale, CPC will add five solar arrays to its existing portfolio, including three 50kW installations at Mount Hawke Skate Park, St Agnes Presingoll Farm and Scarne Industrial Estate.
Solar Power Portal understands that these were some of the first feed-in tariff sites to be completed, while a second 100kW roof system at the skate park and another ground mount system at St Agnes Railway Yard – this time 250kW and next to a substation – were added some years later.
As well as the new 500kW of solar capacity, the deal also brings three 11kW wind turbines in the region into community ownership.
Neil Farrington of CPC said: "We’re thrilled West Country Renewables is now community-owned. It shows the power of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to make their communities and local businesses stronger.”
“Not only are we generating home-grown clean energy, we’re keeping it in Cornwall and we’re maximising the value of projects by employing local people.”
The acquisition was funded by a loan of £1.43 million from a Community Development Financial Institution called The Low Carbon Society (TLC Society), which provides loan support to community enterprise projects.
A loan facility with Cornwall Council was secured by TLC Society which funded £1.27 million of the acquisition.
CPC has made conservative estimates that by bringing West Country Renewables into local community ownership, around £2.5 million will be retained in the Cornish economy before any multiplier effect.
Clayton Elliott of CPC said: “It is great to have kept WCR in local community ownership as it would have been a great shame if the money flows that WCR derives from Cornish natural resources had been lost from the local economy.
“It is also a step change for CPC which started with one site in 2011 and now manages 24 installations and about a megawatt of installed capacity all held in common ownership.”
The purchase offers the latest example of existing solar assets being brought into community ownership. The latest State of the Sector Report from the community energy sector showed that the decline in government subsidies has led to “a wholesale decline” in the number of new organisations and projects over 2017.
Instead, community groups are turning to the secondary market with the most notable purchase of last year being the 14.7MW solar PV installation in Wiltshire by Heart of England Community Energy (HECE).
Emma Bridge, chief executive of Community Energy England, said: “The acquisition of West Country Renewables by Community Power Cornwall demonstrates how communities are innovatively evolving business models to acquire existing private assets thereby increasing the community value of generation projects.
“We applaud the hard work undertaken by Community Power Cornwall and the support given by Cornwall Council and hope this can inspire other communities and local authorities to do similar across the UK.”