Investment interest in a solar farm in Swindon has been so high that bonds sold out a month earlier than expected. Bonds were open to anyone but had a minimum of just £5 put on them. Swindon Community Solar Farm is the UK’s first solar farm funded jointly by a borough council and bonds sold directly to members of the public.
Swindon Community Solar Farm has now set a benchmark in innovation for local authorities to fund renewable energy and other infrastructure projects and boost the green economy.
The bond offer, structured by leading peer-to-peer investment platform Abundance, opened on 24 February and closed yesterday, a month earlier than scheduled, after reaching its £1.8 million target. Swindon Borough Council is co-investing £3 million to build the 5 megawatt (MW) solar farm on council-owned land at Common Farm, Wroughton, near Swindon.
Bruce Davis, Managing Director at Abundance, said: “The success of this investment offer has really set a standard for local authorities looking to fund green infrastructure. We’ve had lots of inquiries from other councils interested in following Swindon’s pioneering lead. Energy is one area where local authorities have the power to make a difference, engaging and enabling their residents to take positive action and invest in a more sustainable future. We’d also like to see them going beyond solar and fund other infrastructure projects this way.”
The investment was structured to be open to anyone with a minimum of just £5 and offered an effective rate of return of 6% over its 20-year term. During the 3-month offer period it attracted an average of £18,000 in investment per day with one-third coming from the Swindon area.
Councillor Dale Heenan, Swindon Borough Council Cabinet Member for Transport and Sustainability, said: “We took a bold decision to create this community solar farm by offering the first council bond direct to the general public in over 100 years. It was a calculated risk to raise £1.8 million this way, but we knew there was an appetite from residents to invest in something with genuine environmental and community benefits. The fact that we’ve hit the target four weeks early proves how successful this project has been.
“All councils need to find new and innovative ways to fund the vital work that they do for their communities, and Swindon now has a template which other local authorities can follow. Embracing renewables will help Swindon Borough Council raise £1 million more in business rates and rent by 2020, which means £1 million more every year which can be spent on important local services.”
Construction has already started and the solar farm is due to be completed by the end of June.
The solar farm will help Swindon in its aim to install 200MW of renewable capacity by 2020, enough to meet the equivalent energy requirements of every home in the Borough. A Community Interest Company, wholly owned by Swindon Borough Council, will manage it. 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.
Revenues will be raised from selling the electricity generated, as well as support from the Feed-in Tariff subsidy (FIT). The solar farm was pre-accredited for the FIT before government policy changes at the start of the year.
The Swindon Community Solar Farm was developed by Public Power Solutions, who structured the blend of public sector and community investment. It was given planning consent though Swindon Borough Council’s use of Local Development Orders, which speed up the planning process but still allow full public consultation.
Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?
Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?
Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.
Is Biofuel Green?
One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.
Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?
Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.
Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.
Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.
Benefits Of Biomass
The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.
Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.
7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees
As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.
After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:
One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.
While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.
Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies
Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.
The Ability To Work Remotely
It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.
Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.
Unlimited Time Off
This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.
A Full Pantry
Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.
Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!