To power 1,300 homes and raise £4m for local energy-poverty / biodiversity projects. Cooperative seeks £640k, offers 30% EIS tax relief and 7% projected annual returns on investments
Plans for a solar farm in Merston, near Chichester, have been announced. The site will provide clean electricity for 1,340 homes, save 2,028 tonnes of CO2 annually and see £4 million raised for local initiatives over 25 years.
The 5MW solar array will be run by the locally based Meadow Blue Community Energy cooperative, with profits brought back to the community. The cooperative will use the profits to run education programmes that enhance biodiversity and reduce energy poverty.
To raise funding for the project, the cooperative has announced a share offer scheme that will be open to people across the UK, with funds raised through the ethical crowd-funding website, Ethex.
The cooperative is seeking to raise £640,000, with people able to invest between £500 and £100,000. Investors will receive a projected 7% return per annum and will be eligible for 30% tax relief through the government’s Enterprise Investment Scheme.
The project is among the UK’s final community energy projects eligible to qualify for EIS tax relief. In October’s Autumn Budget, the Chancellor stated this incentive will end on 30th November, meaning there will never be a better time to invest in community energy projects.
The Merston Community Solar Farm site already has planning permission and the cooperative aims to keep the land in agricultural use.
Under shared ownership 5 + 5 scheme, in line with the government’s community energy framework, 5MW will be owned and operated by Meadow Blue Community Energy, and 5MW will be owned and operated as a commercial solar farm by Primrose Solar.
The Meadow Blue Community Energy project has the potential to generate a community fund worth up to £4 million over 25 years, which will support local community projects, such as pop-up energy advice campaigns to help reduce the incidence of fuel poverty in the area, and projects which work towards a low carbon future.
Dave Barton, Director of MBCE and one of the founders of local community energy co-operative Solesco, said, “This project provides a fantastic opportunity for local people in Sussex to invest in and own a part of our renewable energy future. Not only will our project generate clean renewable energy, it will also enhance biodiversity and provide an excellent outdoor learning facility for local school children. We hope to work with local groups to promote agricultural good practice on the site.
“Furthermore, if approved by HMRC, it is the best time ever to invest in a community energy project in the UK to benefit from 30% tax relief through the government’s EIS – to be withdrawn from 30th November 2015.”
MBCE is working in association with OVESCO, Solesco and Mongoose Energy to manage the share offer. The community shares are being listed on Ethex, an online portal which specialises in ‘positive’ investments that deliver social and environmental benefits as well as financial ones. The project was developed by award-winning solar developer Solstice Renewables.