Initially set up in 1962 to help protect a colony of Purple Emperor butterflies, the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust is now ensuring a sustainable future for locals by setting up its own solar farm.  

The ground breaking partnership with Bath & West Community Energy will see the formation of a new company – Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy (WWCE). The WWCE will act as an independent community enterprise that will develop, finance and operate community-owned renewable energy projects across the Trust’s sites.  

The enterprise’s first project will be a 1MW solar array next to the Chelworth industrial estate in Wiltshire.

In order to fund the construction of the £500,000 project, the WWCE has recently-launched a share offer that provides investors in the project a return of around 7%. The project will also support a Community Fund which is estimated to produce around £500,000 over the 20-year lifetime of the project. The fund will be used to support more local community ventures.   

The 1MW project will see around 4,000 250wp modules installed in double rows across the 2.5-hectare site. Under the proposals, sheep will graze the land in order to maintain vegetation under the arrays.   

Commenting on the community solar project, Denis Gamberoni, president of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust said: “We feel that our involvement in local renewable energy projects has the potential to make a significant impact towards protecting Wiltshire’s precious wildlife and our vision of a sustainable future.

“This is a great opportunity for us to make a real contribution to tackling the enormous issue of climate change. Importantly, the fact that WWCE will be owned locally means that the financial rewards generated can be kept within the community.”

Bath & West Community Energy’s managing director, Jeff Kenna added: “Wherever possible, we will involve local businesses in our activities and we are hoping to award the construction contract to a Wiltshire-based company.”

Shares in WWCE are available at £1 each with a minimum investment of £500.