Wiltshire residents are to be given the chance to invest in a new solar energy farm near Cricklade, a meeting of environmentally-aware business leaders was told this week.
Peter Andrews of Bath & West Community Energy told delegates at Wiltshire Wildlife Trust's Sustainability Forum that a community share issue would be launched next week, giving investors a stake in a 4,000-panel solar farm.
Bath & West Community Energy and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, delegates were told, have joined forces to form a new business called Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy specifically to develop, finance and operate community-owned renewable energy projects on sites owned by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.
The first will be The Chelworth Solar Array on 2.5 hectares of low grade agricultural land at Chelworth Industrial Estate near Cricklade.
“The generation of power in this country is dominated by the Big Six,” said Peter Andrews, director of BWCE, which won the South West Green Energy Awards in 2012. “We want to put electricity generation into your hands.”
Mr Andrews told the Forum that the Chelworth Array – for which planning consent has already been granted – would be capable of generating a megawatt of electricity: enough to power 250 homes.
“We want to appeal to people who want to invest their money ethically and get a financial return,” explained Mr Andrews. “We're looking at a return of nine percent, seven percent of which will go back to our members, while some of the surplus will be put back into local community projects.”
Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy aims to raise £1.2 million to fund the project from a combination of loans and the issue of £1 shares, subject to a minimum investment of £500 and a maximum of £20,000.
The new company – which was incorporated this week – is a co-operative, meaning each share holder will get one vote, regardless of their level of financial investment. The company is also subject to the ethical values of the co-operative movement.
The share offer will be launched at STEAM in Swindon on Tuesday, July 16 and at Salisbury Guildhall on Thursday, July 18, with both events running between from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.
There will also be an opportunity to find out more about the initiative at Lower Moor Farm visitor centre, Cricklade on Tuesday, September 3 and Langford Lakes visitor centre, Wilton on Wednesday, September 4, both between 5pm and 8pm.