South Wales community energy business Gower Power has extended its latest share offer after beating its initial target in six weeks.
The Swansea community benefit society is now running the offer until 8 December, giving investors another month to apply. It launched the share offer on 27 September,, with a target of £385,000, to purchase a 5MW solar farm at Brynwhilach, Morriston. By 10 November over 150 investors had answered the call to join the co-op, contributing over £400,000.
The share offer is one of five run this autumn to raise funds for an innovative partnership, Community Energy Together, which will now purchase seven solar farms between them.
Gower Power, the only Welsh partner, launched almost two months after the others due to administrative hold-ups, but the met with a keen response.
Gower Power director and founder Art Flanagan said: “People really resonate with the need to do business differently and to see more profits distributed back into communities.
“We project a 6% annual return to our investors, but what people really love is that any surplus we generate from green electricity sales is spent on fantastic local projects. The urgent need to decarbonise our energy is no longer up for debate, and this way of meeting that challenge also feels fairer, keeping profits within the community where solar farms are situated.
“As with all community energy projects, there is unavoidable debt at the beginning. The more investment we attract, the sooner we can pay that down and have more spare to support the local community.”
Gower Power says it has a proud history of supporting sustainability in Swansea, and enabling grassroots projects to benefit the local community. It was instrumental in establishing Cae Tan, Swansea’s first community supported agriculture (CSA) scheme, whose apprenticeships have enabled many more CSAs to develop, providing fresh veg grown in ways that prioritise biodiversity, soil health and nutrition.
It also developed a 1MW solar farm in Dunvant, now owned by a community benefit society called Gower Regeneration and providing local homes with green energy through Gower Electric Company. The development breathed new life into the farm site, which has become a hub for local small business start-ups and yet another CSA.
Funding from Brynwhilach has supported community gardening and food growing projects and neighbours who are working to improve their local environments and green spaces. Gower Power says complete ownership of the solar farm will allow it to initiate many more innovative projects and distribute more grant funds – approximately £2.7m over the 23 year life of the scheme.
Gower Power chair Chris Dow said: “It is great to be flying the Welsh flag in Community Energy Together, an innovative collaboration enabling communities to reduce the costs and risks of developing community-owned energy. This project is adding 20% to the total amount of community-owned solar generation in England and Wales.
“ That’s a lot of green power, and people power, which we’re very proud to support from this beautiful corner of Swansea where the landscape inspires us to work differently to safeguard our future.”
Anyone interested in the scheme can sign up to the Gower Power mailing list at gowerpower.coop