The UK’s first solar farm funded by council-supported solar bonds has started generating electricity. Swindon Community Solar farm in Wroughton was developed by Public Power Solutions (PPS), a company wholly owned by Swindon Borough Council, on poor quality farmland owned by the council, and has been built by Lark Energy.
PPS devised a unique blend of public sector and community investment to fund the Solar Farm at Common Farm, Wroughton. The £4.8 million construction cost of the project is being met by a £3 million investment from Swindon Borough Council plus £1.8 million raised from direct investment from the public through Council Solar Bonds structured by Abundance Investment.
It is the first solar farm in the UK to invite people to invest directly through council solar bonds and the bond offer was so successful it closed a month early, at the end of May.
Steve Cains, Head of Power Solutions, PPS, said: “We’re very pleased that this innovative project has been completed on time and on budget and is now generating clean electricity for the people of Swindon – making an important contribution to the town’s target of supplying enough electricity from renewables for all the homes in Swindon by 2020.
“This exemplifies the sort of solar development projects PPS excels at – making the most of innovative funding methods and putting the local community at the heart of our projects.”
Sixty-five per cent of the distributable profits from the solar farm will go towards funding local community initiatives, with the remaining 35% going to the Council.
The project was initially developed by PPS and granted planning consent though Swindon Borough Council’s use of Local Development Orders, which speed up the planning process but still allow full public consultation. SBC aims to generate sufficient renewable electricity to power the equivalent of all the homes in the area by 2020.
The solar park was connected to the grid last week (Wednesday 28 June). The site will be managed to promote biodiversity, with the land around the panels remaining in agricultural use, with sheep grazing for part of the year. The solar farm will generate enough electricity to supply the equivalent of 1200 typical homes and save around 2000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.