Gower Power launches share offer to bring Welsh solar farm into community ownership

Brynwhilach solar farm produces enough electricity for 1,650 average homes and will save over 45,000 tonnes of carbon over its remaining lifetime

Swansea-based community energy group Gower Power has launched a community share offer to fund the transfer of Brynwhilach solar farm into community ownership.

Gower has partnered with four other like-minded community benefit societies (CBS) in England and Wales to form Community Energy Together (CET). The other societies launched their share offers earlier this summer on the Ethex positive investment platform, and have already raised a collective total of £680,000. 

CET aims to bring seven solar farms into community ownership, increasing the capacity of community-owned solar energy in England and Wales by a fifth, and generating a collective community benefit fund of £20m over the solar farms’ lifetime.

The solar farms are in Shropshire, Kent, Devon, Isle of Wight and Swansea. CET says that together they have a total capacity of 36MWp, enough to power around 12,750 homes and save circa 317,000 tonnes of CO2 over their lifetimes. Some societies are buying more than one solar farm.

Ethex CEO Lisa Ashford said: “With the prime minister pushing back on the UK’s net-zero commitments, support for grassroots climate action is more vital than ever. The £680,000 raised so far is a clear vote for local solar power to support a cleaner, greener, fairer future. Ethex investors are supporting community energy projects that use the excess revenue from the sale of renewable energy to create funds that benefit local people, communities and projects – not to line the pockets of energy company shareholders.”

Related: Report from Community Energy England conference

Gower Power says its new share offer builds on the success of two previous offers which have supported several exciting local community projects focusing mainly on sustainable energy and growing food.

The 4.99MW Brynwhilach solar farm has been successfully operating since 2017, it adds, outperforming its generation targets. It produces enough electricity for the equivalent of 1,650 average homes and will save over 45,000 tonnes of carbon over its remaining lifetime.

Ant Flanagan, Gower Power director and co-founder, said: “Gower Power started in my living room with a few friends discussing environmental and social issues. In the 10 years since then we’ve developed some of Wales’ most exciting community projects, including its first community-owned solar farm, a pioneering local electricity tariff, and a sector-leading Community Supported Agriculture scheme. Now we are inviting local people to join us and bring Brynwhilach solar farm into community ownership so we can continue delivering pioneering projects for many years to come.”

In the last five years Gower Power says it has received over £55,000 of surplus funds from Brynwhilach to support a wide range of local social and environmental projects such as:

  • Cae Tan CSA – Sustainable Schools
  • Clyddach Community Garden
  • Swansea Wellbeing Centre – Cocoon

Under community ownership, the solar farm is expected to generate over £2.7m in community benefit over the next 23 years. Gower Power wants to use this money to:

  • Develop more renewable energy generation and supply projects
  • Pilot and establish nature-oriented health and wellbeing interventions 
  • Create and support more ecologically sensitive food supply chains 

Julie James, Senedd Member for Swansea West who has served as Minister for Climate Change since 2021, said: “I am so pleased that Gower Power is representing Wales in this pioneering initiative that will hugely increase community owned solar across England and Wales. Community ownership means money spent on energy is kept within Wales rather than leaking away to distant companies – it’s a more sustainable economic model as well as a more sustainable way of sourcing energy … This Gower Power project is making a great contribution towards Wales meeting its wellbeing goals and its targets for Net Zero.” 

Gower Power already has a strong track record in innovating local energy projects, whose impacts extend well beyond Wales. These  include the first commercial-scale, community-owned solar farm in Wales, on the site of a former coal mine; and a local energy tariff selling discounted electricity from the solar farm to local consumers in Swansea.

Like the other CET share offers, Gower Power has a target annual return of 6% and minimum investment of just £250.  Its total fund raise target is £385,000 and shareholders will become a member of the Society on a one vote per shareholder basis.

Emma Bridge, CEO of Community Energy England, said: “The launch of these CET share offers marks a significant milestone for community energy. Raising £2.5m from community investors to create community benefits of c.£20 million demonstrates the immense potential of the sector. Local ownership of our green energy infrastructure is vital for engaging people with the changes we must make to get to net zero.”

The share offer will be open until 27 October 2023 but may close earlier if fully subscribed. Click here for more details.