The Chapel Farm solar park building work is expected to start next week after a second, extremely successful bond offer from both Swindon Borough Council (SBC) and Abundance Investment.
The bonds sold out over a month early, closing on December 23rd having raised more than £2.4 million from the local community and across the UK. The remaining £3 million construction cost is being invested directly by Swindon Borough Council.
The project was developed by Public Power Solutions (PPS), a wholly owned company of Swindon Borough Council, on the council-owned former landfill site at Blunsdon. PPS devised the unique blend of public sector and community investment funding.
In another first for PPS, SBC and Abundance, the bonds were the first solar energy investment eligible to be held tax-free directly in a green energy Innovative Finance ISA (individual savings account) following a recent change in government legislation.
Steve Cains, Head of Power Solutions, PPS, said: “We’re extremely pleased with the outstanding success of Swindon’s second solar bond offer, which has proved attractive to over 800 individual investors who understand not only the environmental benefits of solar power but also the financial model.
“Yet again PPS has shown how innovative funding – this time including the tax-free advantages of an ISA – which puts the local community first can deliver winning solutions.
“Chapel Farm will give a new lease of life to an ex-landfill site: as a solar farm, a managed biodiversity hotspot, and as a place for sheep to graze for part of the year. The income from the solar farm will also help the Council install a noise barrier along the A419 bringing further benefits for residents.”
Construction is set to start the week of January 9th and is due to take approximately 10 weeks, with 18,860 panels being installed – enough to generate electricity for the equivalent of around 1200 homes.
Steve Cains added: “The early closing of the bond offer was a great Christmas present for everyone involved – and now we’re looking forward to a happy green New Year as we complete this innovative project and help Swindon move closer to its target of powering the equivalent of every home with renewables by 2020.”
The new solar farm is expected to make a contribution from profits towards community initiatives and will help Swindon move even closer to its goal to install 200MW of renewable capacity by 2020, enough to meet the equivalent electricity requirements of every home in the Borough. Completion of Chapel Farm, which would have a capacity of 5 megawatts (MW), would take the total to 167MW – over 80% of the target.