A 3.2MW community solar array will be brought into local community ownership in the village of Sheriffhales, Shropshire, with £3.5 million having been raised.
Sheriffhales Community Energy launched a community bond offer earlier this year to raise funds to bring a solar farm on the edge of the village into local community ownership. The bond offer raised £565,000 with a further £3 million secured from a long-term bank loan from the Bristol-based ethical bank Triodos.
The community solar array is situated on the outskirts of the Shropshire village and consists of 11,976 panels and is able to generate around 984,000kWh of green electricity each year.
“It was a huge relief to get the financing over the line amidst challenging financial circumstances. 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,” said Peter Bonsall, Director of Sheriffhales Community Energy.
“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 land under and around the solar panels maintains a species rich meadow of grasses, herbs and wildflowers and also provides a boost to wildlife and biodiversity. Bat and bird boxes have been placed in multiple locations around the site along with woodpiles to further enhance habitat opportunities.
Community owned solar projects have increased in popularity as a means to support the renewable generation in localised areas. Plymouth Energy Community (PEC) revealed in 2021 that it was working with Plymouth City Council to develop a community-owned solar farm.
The solar project would be located at an old landfill site, with PEC having completed a feasibility study with support from a government grant. The results of this showed the project could generate 14,284MWh per year while providing a 10% improvement in biodiversity.