Solar Array Community Investment Launched

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A solar array being built near Crewkerne in Somerset could soon be owned by the community. That’s after the launch of a share and bond offer from Bath and West Community Energy (BWCE). The solar array is forecast to generate enough electricity to power around 1,650 homes.

The bond is forecast to deliver 5% return a year (5.5% for BWCE shareholders) and 7% to those buying shares. The company has returned 7% a year on its shares for its previous four years.

BWCE is an award-winning community enterprise and is seeking to raise £2.63 million through the bond and share offers. BWCE will be investing these funds alongside a Triodos Bank loan of £3.33 million to purchase and develop the solar array.

The added capacity takes BWCE’s total to 12MWp, the equivalent annual electricity demand of around 3,900 typical homes. It will give BWCE the UK’s largest generation capacity of any community-owned benefit society.

Pete Capener, MBE and chair of Bath and West Community Energy, said: “We expect this investment to appeal to the public as it has the option of short term investment with bonds and medium to long term with the shares. We are proud to have hit our target interest payment of 7% in every one of the four years since our first share offer in 2011.

“In addition, we have seen our vision of community energy taking shape as we have made donations totalling £75,000 to our community fund, which have allocated to grants for local community carbon reduction and fuel poverty projects.”

To deliver the scheme, BWCE is partnering with Mongoose Energy and South Somerset Community Energy Society (SSCES). Mongoose Energy is one of the UK’s leading community energy firms and was established to help community groups identify, develop, finance, build and manage community-owned renewable energy projects.

JW Bode, CEO of Mongoose Energy, said: “The rise of community energy shares and bonds have proven to be popular with our investors, with this being BWCE’s sixth fundraiser open to public investment. For each, BWCE has either reached its fundraising target on or ahead of time.

“The Bath and Bristol region is repeatedly cited as being among the UK’s biggest investors in positive investments and we continue to see an appetite for investment into local clean energy projects that offers a reasonable rate of return as well as the benefit of a social dividend.”

The bond is in the form of a loan to BWCE and will pay a return on the investment of 5% a year for two years (5.5% for BWCE and members of its partner organisations) with interest paid annually.

By buying shares, investors can become a member of BWCE, which has paid its members interest on their investment of 7% in each of the four years since its first share offer.

BWCE will issue the first wave of shares and bonds to investors whose applications have been received by 7 June 2016, with interest being earned from the date the shares or bonds are issued, allowing investors the chance to start earning interest earlier.

The bond and share offers are currently open for applications and close on Tuesday 12 July 2016.

For full investment details of the scheme visit Ethex, the positive investment and savings platform, website.

BWCE will be holding a series of events in the area where potential investors can hear about the scheme and BWCE’s future plans. Company directors and existing investors will be present to answer questions. Full details can be found on BWCE’s website along with more information about BWCE and the forthcoming bond and share offers.

Photograph: BWCE