Westmill Solar Co-op has a similar community investment model to the existing Westmill Wind Farm Co-op, which in 2007 attracted more than 2,000 investors to its development of five wind turbines near Swindon.
Organic farmer and environmental entrepreneur Adam Twine, who farms 1,200 acres at Westmill Farm and as a tenant of the National Trust at Colleymore Farm, is already featured in the NFU’s Farming Delivers campaign as an example of how farmers can work with local communities to generate clean energy.
The five-megawatt solar farm was commissioned in July 2011, comprising 20,000 polycrystalline PV modules in a 30-acre field, generating between four and five million units of electricity per year.
Local MP and minister for culture Ed Vaizy spoke at the opening of the £4 million share offer, which gives preference to rural dwellers and farmers living near the site.
Mr Twine said: “We are very pleased that at last we can make local community ownership of Westmill Solar Farm a possibility.
"It’s not very often you have a chance to do something that is good for the environment and make money. I think this will also be of interest to many other farmers considering similar schemes.”
Although relatively rare in the UK, community energy projects are widespread in other European states such as Germany and Denmark.
In a related development, Defra will be launching its own Rural Communities Renewable Energy Fund in Autumn 2012, offering loans to meet the upfront cost of developing community renewable energy projects.
Overseen by co-operative advisers Energy4All, the Westmill Solar share offer is open until the end of July. Visit www.westmillsolar.coop or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
TheBioenergySite News Desk