An innovative model for funding solar projects developed by Public Power Solutions (PPS) and delivered by Abundance Investment has been given the go-ahead by Swindon Borough Council.
PPS, a wholly-owned company of Swindon Borough Council, has devised a unique blend of public sector and community investment to fund Swindon Community Solar Farm at Common Farm, Wroughton, near Swindon. The £4.8 million construction cost of the solar farm will be met by a £3 million investment from Swindon Borough Council plus a £1.8 million public offer of Council Solar Bonds structured by Abundance.
The bonds are expected to have an estimated 6% effective rate of return over 20 years, and the offer was approved unanimously last night by Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet.
James Owen, Commercial Director, Public Power Solutions, said: “PPS puts the community at the heart of all our projects, including offering the opportunity for local people to invest. So we’re really pleased that we’re working with Abundance to make that happen and that people will be able to invest from just £5 in the solar farm and earn a fair return.”
Sixty-five per cent of the profits from the solar farm would go towards local community initiatives, with the remaining 35% to investors and Swindon Borough Council.
Bruce Davis, Managing Director, Abundance, said: “Forward-thinking developers like PPS are helping to change the way people think about energy in the UK. As well as allowing people to have a stake in a local sustainable energy-generating asset, this model delivers excellent benefits for community projects too.”
James Owen added: “We have some other solar projects in the pipeline where we’ll be looking to apply a similar funding model – and we think this could be applicable to many other public sector infrastructure projects.”
The 5 MW solar farm will be on council-owned land. It was initially developed by PPS and granted planning consent though Swindon Borough Council’s use of Local Development Orders, which speed up the planning process but still allow full public consultation. Construction is due to begin in the Spring and will be carried out by Lark Energy.
The site will be managed to promote biodiversity, with the land around the panels remaining in agricultural use, with sheep grazing for part of the year. The solar farm will generate enough electricity to supply the equivalent of 1200 typical homes and save around 2000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.
The Council Solar Bond offer is due to be launched on February 23rd. More information is available on the Abundance website,www.abundanceinvestment.com/swindon.