UK’s largest community-owned solar park has funding confirmed

The project from Low Carbon Hub will power over 6,000 homes annually

Ray Valley Solar – a subsidy-free, community-owned solar park near Arncott, northeast of Oxford – will be built this year following lending confirmation from ethical bank Triodos, among others. 

The park aims to generate enough electricity to power over 6,000 homes annually through its ground-mounted panels, making it the largest community-owned solar park in the country. It is being run by Low Carbon Hub, a social enterprise that helps local communities take control of their energy.

The project will have a total installed capacity of 19.2 megawatts (MWp), resulting in a five-fold increase in the amount of green electricity that Low Carbon Hub is able to generate annually.

“Ray Valley Solar Park is our first ground mount solar project, but it will be our 48th renewable energy project,” said Dr Barbara Hammond, CEO at Low Carbon Hub. “We’re really pleased to be working with Triodos Bank to help make this project happen, an organisation with a strong track record and such closely aligned values to us.”

Along with the finance from Triodos, Low Carbon Hub has raised funds from a number of other sources for the project, including Oxford City Council and grant funding from Project LEO (Local Energy Oxfordshire), alongside £4.5m through its community share offer. 

“We were bowled over by the level of support for this share offer, which really demonstrates people’s enthusiasm for the project and support for a better energy system, one based on renewables that benefits communities,” added Dr Hammond. 

“We want to make Oxfordshire an example for the world. To show how the right investment, used in the right way, can help meet our energy needs in a way that’s good for people, and good for the planet. This is another step to making that a reality.”

In one of its other projects, Low Carbon Hub installed 240 solar panels on the roof of Bure Park Primary School in Bicester – the largest solar installation on a primary school in the county at that time

Surpluses from Ray Valley Solar will benefit the local community; it aims to create over £10m of community benefit funding over the project’s lifetime. This funding will focus on supporting community initiatives that reduce energy demand across Oxfordshire and help tackle climate change – such as grants to support energy efficiency measures and work with schools to bring climate change onto the curriculum. 

Chris Cullen, relationship manager at Triodos Bank UK, said: “As a bank that’s committed to addressing the climate emergency, as well as promoting social cohesion, we see projects like Ray Valley Solar as vitally important. Not only is this set to be the biggest community-owned solar park in the country, but the research and work that Low Carbon Hub and Project LEO are doing will have a wider impact across Oxfordshire and the UK. 

“We need projects like this to demonstrate that community energy can play a key part in helping us achieve our net zero targets, all while keeping profits within that community to further benefit local people.” 

Triodos first entered the renewables market in the mid-1980s with a focus on wind energy and has since broadened its focus to the wider renewable and environmental sectors. For the past five years, the bank has been named the most active lead arranger globally for financing renewable energy projects by Clean Energy Pipeline and was recognised with a Financial Leadership award from the British Renewable Energy Awards earlier in 2021.

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