Developers collaborate to claim UK’s first split community-commercial solar farm

Solar farm developer Public Power Solutions has collaborated with Mongoose Energy and Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy (WWCE) to develop what is claimed to be the first split-ownership community-commercial solar farm in the UK.

In April this year the government issued guidance on changes to the feed-in tariff related to community solar projects which enabled two projects up to 5MW in size to share a grid connection point as long as one was owned by a community organisation or charity.

Both installations would receive separate tariffs based on their generating capacity, and the scheme was seen as a new way for projects up to 10MW that had missed out on ROCs to be incentivised.

Even though a lack of clarity within guidance issued by Ofgem and DECC was criticised at the time at the time, it was suggested that as many as 160 projects across the country – with a combined capacity of around 1GW – could fall within the parameters and now the aforementioned parties have claimed to have developed the nation’s first.

The 9.1MWp Braydon Manor Farm near Swindon comprises a 5MWp community-owned area which has been backed by community energy group Mongoose Energy and WWCE. More than £2.9 million was raised via a public share offer managed by investment platform Ethex, while a further £2.7 million was sourced through a loan provided by ethical bank Triodos.

WWCE director Jeff Kenna said the project allowed the group to generate more energy for its money and be more beneficial for the local community. “We have this year raised £25,000 for our local community fund and over the lifetime of the project we hope to raise over £2 million, which will be re-invested in the local community by financing projects put forward and chosen by WWCE members and local people,” he added.

Construction on the project started this week and more than 18,000 solar panels are to be fitted prior to completion, expected by January 2016.

Solarcentury and Public Power Solutions are the primary development partners involved with the development of the complete solar farm and Frans van den Heuvel, chief executive at Solarcentury, said the project acts as proof that it’s “possible to create clean energy power stations around the UK owned by local people”.

“This is a perfect example of a shared ownership solar project – with the private and public sector and local community all working together successfully to help meet local and national renewable energy targets and cut carbon emissions as well as deliver financial and ecological benefits locally. We are proud to have been part of it,” James Owen, commercial director at Public Power Solutions, said.

The development caps something of a banner week for Mongoose Energy which this week appointed former energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey as its new chairman, building on plans to launch a community energy supply company.