A share offer to help fund a community solar farm in Merston, near Chichester, has been launched. The project will provide clean electricity for 1,340 homes, save 2,028 tonnes of CO2 annually and should generate a £4 million fund for community benefits over 25 years.
The 5MW solar array will be built and run by the locally based Meadow Blue Community Energy, with profits brought back to the community. They will use the profits to run education programmes and reduce fuel poverty.
To raise funding for the project, a share offer scheme has been launched and is open to people across the region. Investments can be made through the non-profit positive investment website, Ethex – www.ethex.org.uk/MeadowBlue.
Meadow Blue Community Energy are seeking to raise £640,000 through the share offer, with people able to invest between £500 and £100,000. Investors are expected to receive a forecast 7% return per annum and the project has also applied for 30% tax relief through the government’s Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS). The government has stated this incentive will end on 30th November, meaning there will never be a better time to invest in community energy projects.
A meet-the-directors event for people to find out more will be held on Tuesday 17th November, with sessions running from 4-6pm and 6-8pm. It will take place at Vicar’s Hall, The Royal Chantry, Cathedral Cloisters, Chichester PO19 1PX. The share offer closes on the 24th November.
The Merston Community Solar Farm site already has planning permission and plans are to keep the land in agricultural use and maximize biodiversity.
Under the shared ownership ‘5 + 5’ scheme, which is 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 Meadow Blue Community Energy 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 from30% 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.
The total funds required to construct the 5MW site are £6.26m. The cooperative has already secured £3.62 million of bank debt and hopes to raise £2m from a single local community investor leaving a balance of £640,000 that is being offered to the public through the share offer. Meadow Blue expects the £640,000 allocation to be filled quickly as this is a comparatively small public share offer for a 5MW solar farm.
More details, including the share offer document and a short film about the project can be found on the MBCE website. (www.meadowblue-energy.org). Information on how to invest can also be found on the Ethex website. (www.ethex.org.uk/MeadowBlue)