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WWCE chairman Lesley Bennett

Community solar investment scheme exceeds target

A successful fundraising initiative means Wiltshire will be home to one of UK’s largest community solar projects.

Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy has exceeded its £2.7 million fund-raising target to build the Braydon Manor Farm Solar Array near Purton, with the community share offer closing to investors four days before its due date of January 23.

Lesley Bennett, chairman of WWCE, said: “We are really pleased that WWCE’s second community energy share offer has been so successful, and have been particularly encouraged that most of the investment has come from people all across Wiltshire.

“This will be one of the largest community-owned solar projects in the country, something Wiltshire can be truly proud of. And it will provide a huge boost for biodiversity, helping improve wildlife habitats by creating new wildflower meadows and a haven for bees, butterflies and a host of other wildlife.”

The total amount raised was £2,938,001 with the additional money to be invested in new projects.

Planning permission has already been secured for the solar array, which will have an installed capacity of 5 MegaWatts, generating enough clean electricity to power the equivalent of over 1400 average homes.

It will be built on low-grade agricultural land, which will be sown with wildflowers to enable biodiversity to flourish and support controlled sheep grazing so it continues in agricultural use.

With the fundraise now complete, and negotiations on the remaining finance nearing completion, construction is expected to start this Spring with the solar array commissioned and generating electricity in June.

Surplus profits will be recycled back into the community through an independent community benefit fund for re-investing in further local, environmental projects and to support the work of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. Over 25 years this could amount to over £2.1 million.