Moves to take a Shropshire solar farm into community ownership will bring a huge bonus to community groups across the county, its supporters said today.
Community Benefit Society Shropshire and Telford Community Energy (STCE) says its share offer for Twemlows solar farm will release up to £4.5million to support community projects over the next 18 years.
The 10MW solar farm on the edge of Whitchurch – which can power the equivalent of 3,400 homes and has helped save more than 4,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year – has already generated tens of thousands of pounds of funding for community projects since it was set up in 2015.
But Dave Green, from STCE, says that figure will increase dramatically once the site is in community ownership.
“One of the great advantages of our share offer is that not only does it allow people to invest in something which helps the environment and receive a targeted six per cent return, but it will also generate significant funds which can be pumped back into the community.
“Our projection is that the Twemlows Community Benefit Fund could be worth up to £4.5million over the next 18 years to be distributed among local projects. Because we will target the money at energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, we will be able to deliver even more carbon emission reductions and sustainability.”
Some of the groups which have already benefitted from the Twemlows fund praised the grants programme.
Ellesmere Bowling Club received £1,000 support as part of a big fundraising effort to replace floodlights on its two greens and resurface a path at the site.
Gerard Brooke-Bennett, from the club, said: “The new floodlamps have reduced our energy costs as they are more energy efficient, reduced light pollution, and are trouble free, allowing us to continue within the leagues so that club members can continue playing, thus gaining a boost to both mental health and physical exercise in the open air.”
Tilstock Bradbury Village Hall, near Whitchurch, also received £1,000 to install batteries to store the electricity generated by its solar panels.
Chair Richard Thompson said: “In theory our grid electricity consumption should be zero for at least six months a year and reduced for the winter six months. We hope this project will save the village hall money as well as reduce our carbon footprint.”
Harmer Hill Village Hall, near Shrewsbury, received £1,000 to install solar panels on its roof along with battery storage.
Erica Martin and Kelvin Morgan, from the village hall committee said: “Since we had it installed two months ago we have not paid a bill. It’s been really efficient. We wanted to install solar panels because we wanted to make a green difference.”
The Renshaws Field Association in Clive was able to install a willow dome and tunnel after receiving a grant of just over £300.
An association spokesperson said: “The dome was chosen as a part of our five-year project to develop the offering of our outside leisure space in Clive. We would like to thank the fund for awarding us this grant. It hasn’t taken the children long to find the new dome.”
STCE, one of five community energy groups from across England and Wales to have joined forces under the Community Energy Together banner to launch share offers for a total of seven operational solar farms, has already raised more than £150,000 towards its £730,000 target.