Wiltshire Wildlife Trust offers chance to invest in 5MW community solar farm

Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy (WWCE) is aiming to raise £2.7 million to help finance the construction of a 5MW solar farm near Swindon.

The array, which would equal Westmill Solar Co-op as the largest community-owned solar farm in the UK, is expected to generate enough electricity to power 1,400 homes.

The solar array has already been granted planning permission and has been developed by Swindon Commercial Services. Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, which is behind the WWCE initiative, said that investment in the solar farm will help boost biodiversity, ecology and wildlife on the grade four site.  

Lesley Bennett, chair of WWCE commented: “The Braydon Manor Farm site is low-grade land previously used for grazing horses, which makes it ideal for a solar array. Land around the solar panels will be transformed into a wildflower meadow and become a haven for wildlife, with sheep grazing as well. Not only will it generate clean renewable energy, but it will also help support traditional agriculture and enhance biodiversity.”

Braydon Manor Farm Solar array will pay 80% of surplus profit to local communities through the community fund, with the final 20% going directly to the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. The arrangement could see more than £2 million offered to local community and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust over the 25-year lifetime of the solar farm.

James Owen, commercial director, Swindon Commercial Services, said: “With the public sector and community working closely together, this project can become a model for community energy generation. The array will help to cut carbon and contribute to energy security, but instead of the profits going to big energy companies, it will be owned by the community, fund community projects, and promote biodiversity – everyone’s a winner.”

The minimum investment is £500 and the share offer closes on 12 December, 2014.