As ever, the renewable energy industry has had another year of highs and lows. Feed-in Tariff levels across a number of technologies have been cut, causing uncertainty in the investment market just as the UK is producing record amounts of clean electricity from those very technologies. Despite this, there are still new investment opportunities around and we expect to see a growing number of these coming from joint public-private funding of local authority projects. This has already been successfully demonstrated with a 4.8MW groundmounted solar farm in the borough of Swindon.
Swindon Borough Council (SBC) has a vision to be a leader of the low-carbon economy and part of this vision is a target to produce 200 MW of electricity from renewable sources by 2020. SBC – as with many other local authorities – is also looking for ways to generate long term incomes to help them continue to plan and deliver services to their residents, while also encouraging greater levels of participation and engagement with council activities amongst residents. The solution is Swindon Common Farm Solar CIC.
The solar farm was developed on Council owned farmland and refinanced with a £3 million loan from SBC and a further £1.8 million from a groundbreaking local retail Debenture (bond) offer through Abundance. The investment offer was a resounding success, with more than 700 investors raising the full amount more than a month ahead of schedule and individual investments ranging from £5 to more than £50,000.
This model is already being replicated with SBC for a potential second solar project and can be easily applied to a wide variety of infrastructure projects. It’s the ultimate win-win: investors have a financial and emotional interest in their local solar farm, the Council earns long term income from the energy produced and business rates, and the UK produces that little bit more of its own clean energy. All of which means our message to investors is: watch this space, investment opportunities in renewables aren’t going away.
By Katrina Sidenius, Marketing Executive, Abundance Investment
This article first appeared in the Guide to Clean Energy