The offer to Swindon residents to co-invest with Swindon Borough Council in its unique solar farm bonds scheme has met with a record response – which means that time is running out for anyone who wants to put their money into the project.
The bond offer to private investors opened on the 23 February and was due to close on the 30 June, but more than 87% of the £1.8million target has already been raised.
The Swindon Community Solar Farm will generate both a return for individual investors and provide funding for community projects over the next 20 years, and is the first of its kind in the UK to allow residents to invest directly in Council Solar Bonds for a minimum stake of just £5.
Abundance Investments, the company handling the offer on behalf of the Council, says that the Swindon scheme has seen the most money raised in the shortest time since they launched in 2012. Abundance, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, has seen more than £17m invested in 18 different projects across the UK since then.
Construction of the solar farm on land at Common Farm in Wroughton has now begun. It will cost £4.8million, with £1.8million coming from private investors and the remaining £3million from the Council.
Bruce Davis, the managing director of Abundance, said: “We’re really pleased with the success of this innovative green energy scheme, which has attracted individual investments from people ranging in age from 18 to 86 and from just £5 to tens of thousands. Swindon Borough Council is setting a great example for other local authorities of how to engage the local community in supporting and financing a low-carbon economy.”
Cllr Dale Heenan, Swindon Borough Council Cabinet member for transport and sustainability, said: “The Swindon Solar Bond is the first council bond offered direct to the general public in over 100 years, and is proving to be a staggeringly successful way to raise money for a renewable project. It has sparked real interest across the country in what Swindon is doing.
“£1.5 million has been invested by more than 640 people, and with six weeks still to go there remains just £250,000 left. Once the target has been met, that’s it, and the offer will close. Our partner, Abundance, is doing an excellent job running the community investment scheme on our behalf, and I look forward to seeing what comes next and I believe there is a lot of potential to use this approach for future projects.”
Along with the financial benefits, the solar farm – which will have a capacity of 5 megawatts (MW) – will help Swindon in its aim to install 200MW of renewable capacity by 2020, enough to meet the equivalent energy requirements of every home in the Borough. A Community Interest Company, wholly owned by Swindon Borough Council, will manage it.
The solar bonds remain open for investment at www.abundanceinvestment.com/swindon They are expected to have an estimated 6% effective rate of return over the next 20 years. As with any investment product, there are risks. Part or all of the invested capital may be at risk. Investments are long term but investors should be able to sell their debenture via a service on the Abundance website.
The Swindon Community Solar Farm has been developed by Public Power Solutions, who structured the blend of public sector and community investment. It was given planning consent though Swindon Borough Council’s use of Local Development Orders, which speed up the planning process but still allow full public consultation.