Westmill Solar Cooperative
The 5 MW Westmill solar farm, just outside Swindon, is on the verge of becoming the first community owned and community led solar farm in the UK.
This is a unique opportunity for local people to buy into the green future of renewable energy – and it opens on Saturday June 23.
Local MP Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications & the Creative Industries, will be launching the Westmill Solar share offer.
Potential investors can buy in to the project as a long-term investment with a minimum investment of £250 and a maximum of £20,000. The aim is to make it as accessible as possible to any individual or organization, and the project is particularly looking for local people to invest.
Adam Twine (pictured), organic farmer and a director of Westmill Solar said: “Anyone who would like to visit the solar farm and talk to the directors of the coop is very welcome to come along to the launch, at 1pm on site. We hope that there will be substantial local ownership of the solar farm and that the profits from the site are therefore retained within the community. The solar farm is a great local resource that we hope will inspire other communities to grow their own power. ”
The 30-acre site, one of the largest in the UK, has more than 20,000 polycrystalline solar panels and produces 4.8GWh per year – enough to provide 1,400 homes average annual electricity requirement.
Part of the solar farm’s income will come from the 25-year government feed-in tariff contract. As the site was generating clean electricity before August 1 last year, it has the benefit of the highest level of payment.
The directors of Westmill Solar Cooperative will be launching the share offer from Saturday June 23. It will close at the end of July but may end early if oversubscribed. If the share offer is oversubscribed, priority will be given to local investors in the allocation of shares.
Adam Twine said: “We are very pleased that at last we can make local community ownership of Westmill solar farm a possibility. This will probably be the only opportunity to invest in a solar project of this scale and get this level of returns in the UK. We expect to be oversubscribed as it’s not very often you have a chance to do something that is good for the environment and make money.”
The share offer is to raise £4 million equity. Behind the scenes, Westmill Solar is working with Investec, a leading investment bank, to secure a bond for the debt required to complete the purchase of the £15m project from seed investor Blue Energy.
The project is led by a board of directors, including organic farmer and green entrepreneur Adam Twine, who has a track record in tackling climate change at a local level. He’s already successfully created a successful cooperative-owned wind farm on the same site which raised £4.3 million in 2007 and has 2,300 members.
Follow developments on Twitter at @westmillsolar