Villagers in Sheriffhales, Shropshire, are now owners of their local solar farm after raising £3.5m in community bonds and loans.
Sheriffhales Community Energy raised £565,000 through a bond offer plus £3m as a long-term loan from the Bristol-based ethical bank Triodos.
A not-for profit-community benefit society, Sheriffhales is governed by local volunteer directors, and set up to generate energy and income for the parish.
Local director Peter Bonsall told Communities for Renewables: “Sheriffhales is now one of the few villages in the UK to own its own solar farm. We are a rural parish with an agrarian economy. We don’t have a village pub or a shop or a bus. Bringing the solar farm into community ownership will bring an income to the parish that is more than the parish council precept.
“We will be using those funds to help address some of the challenges we face as a rural community, to tackle fuel poverty and support our low carbon transition. It’s also a confidence step; if we can raise £3.5million to fund our own solar farm, what can we do next?”
The 3.2MW community solar array is made up of 11,976 panels and generates around 984,000kWh of green electricity each year – enough for 825 homes.
The land under and around the solar panels is managed to maintain a species rich meadow of grasses, herbs and wildflowers and encourage wildlife and biodiversity. Bat and bird boxes have been placed in multiple locations around the site and woodpiles have been placed along the fence line to further enhance habitat opportunities.
The community solar array generates over £400,000 per year in revenue. As well as covering operating and finance costs, it expects to generate around £1,000,000 over its 25-year operating life to support local community initiatives. Initially the annual community payments will be £20,000, rising once the bank loan is paid off.
Initiatives supported so far include LED light bulbs, community transport, and supporting the community’s response to the Covid 19 crisis.