Southill Community Energy (SCE) in Oxfordshire has just launched a share offer inviting people to invest in Southill Solar, a community-owned solar farm near Charlbury in David Cameron’s constituency. SCE, a community benefit society, is offering investors the opportunity to buy shares in the community solar farm on the Cornbury Park estate, just outside Charlbury. They are aiming to raise £3 million to build the solar farm, which was granted planning consent in July 2015. It has been pre-accredited for the Feed-in Tariff and will be one of the last community solar schemes to be guaranteed the subsidy.
Tim Crisp, Director, Southill Community Energy, said: “This project has been led by the community from the start, and we’ve had to negotiate some tricky obstacles on the way, both during planning and with government changes to support for solar farms and community shares. We hope that Southill Solar will be a beacon of excellence on David Cameron’s doorstep, demonstrating the positive power of community energy. It’s energy democracy in action!”
The share offer aims to generate an annual return for investors of 5% over the 25-year lifetime of the solar farm. The minimum investment is £250 and the maximum is £100,000. As well as offering investors a return well above current bank interest rates, SCE will also return around £750,000 over the solar farm’s lifetime to the local community to support schemes tackling fuel poverty, improving energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions. This will include a project to refurbish the Charlbury Corner House, a Grade II-listed building which is a civic hub for the town, transforming it into an exemplar for energy efficiency.
Liz Reason, Director, Southill Community Energy, said: “This will be one of the last chances to invest in a community solar farm following recent changes in government policy towards renewables. Investing in Southill Community Energy is a triple bottom line investment: good for the environment, good for the community, and good financial sense.”
The share offer is open from 17th February to 8th April, but may close early if the fundraising target is met before then. While the investment is open to anyone over 16, if it is oversubscribed, investors living close to the solar farm will get priority.
The solar farm will have an installed capacity of 4.5MW, generating enough electricity for around 1100 typical homes – equivalent to most of the houses in the three closest settlements of Charlbury, Finstock and Fawler. It will also be used to promote biodiversity with a bespoke ecological plan including planting fruit trees nearby, with supporters of SCE recently donning their wellies to help out with the planting.
Investing is quick and easy via the online positive investment and savings platform, www.ethex.org.uk/SCE. Alternatively investors can complete an application form in the share offer document which can be downloaded from the website www.southillcommunityenergy.co.uk .
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