The largest community owned renewable energy project in Kent is racing to raise £1m in order to help investors beat a Government funding deadline and generate up to £3m for Swale and Medway projects. As a result, the team behind Orchard Community Energy has put out the urgent call for people to back the scheme and become shareholders in order to secure it for the community.
The solar farm, which would be purchased by Orchard Community Energy, is in Iwade, Swale, and currently being constructed. When completed it will generate 5MW of electricity, enough to power 1,250 local homes.
There will also be a community benefit fund, projected to be worth about £3 million over the 25 years of the solar farm’s operation. The fund could help tackle local fuel poverty, as well as support wildlife conservation and energy efficiency measures in Swale and Medway for local people.
Penny Shepherd MBE (pictured), chair of Orchard Community Energy, and Kent resident, said: “We are in a unique position. The solar farm is already being built so investors can have confidence that the project will go ahead.
“The Government has announced that eligibility for Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS), which offers tax breaks of 30 per cent for investors, will be withdrawn in November when its Finance Bill receives Royal Assent. So we are urging investors to act quickly to get the maximum benefits of being part of Kent’s first community owned solar farm and complete an application form.”
As Orchard Farm has planning permission, plus a connection to the grid and is under construction we are confident that our EIS application will be approved, and we will also lock in the Feed in Tariff at the higher rate before the Government implements drastic cuts in January.
Members of the public can invest between £500 and £100,000 and become shareholders in the scheme with a target return of 7 per cent, and at the same time play their part in saving 2,300 tonnes of CO2 a year.
Commenting on the potential tax advantages, John Lancaster, Director of Orchard Community Energy, added: “In simple terms a £1,000 investment would result in a £300 tax relief for the investor from the Government. The target interest rate of 7% is paid on the whole £1,000 so would earn them £70 per year, and they would still have their original shares in the solar farm.”
Orchard Community Energy has been set up as a Community Benefit Society (BenCom) working in partnership with Mongoose Energy, and is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and bound by strict rules to conduct its business for the benefit of the community.
Information on Orchard Community Energy, and the Share Offer application document, is available at www.orchard.coop.