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Share issue for UK's first community-owned power station launches

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 15 April 2011 at 9:06 am

Lewes-based energy company Ovesco is racing to get the country's first community-owned solar power station up and running before the feed-in tariff rates are slashed on 1 August.

The not-for-profit industrial and provident society has teamed up with East Sussex brewery, Harveys, to install 544 solar panels on the roof of the company's warehouse. The 98 kWp installation is expected to generate 98,000 kWhs of electricity a year.

Ovesco hopes to raise all of the £307,000 for the installation from local investors. It will launch the share offer next week (19 April) at Lewes town hall. Members of the community will be able to invest between £250 and £20,000 in the scheme, which is expected to pay a dividend of about 4% after the first two or three years.

It already has £152,500 pledged and planning permission is in place. However, the figures won't stack up as well for the system under the new rates of feed-in tariff for installations over 50kWp, which will come in force from 1 August this year. Instead of the 34p per kWh rate of feed-in tariff in place now, and on which Ovesco based its planning, Energy minister Greg Barker announced last month that the feed-in tariff rate will be reduced to a rather less generous 19p. So, Ovesco's ambitious plan is to raise the capital and install the panels by early July to get the 34p feed-in tariff rate.

Harveys' roof is just the starting point of Ovesco's plans. Lewes Football Club has expressed an interest in hosting a solar PV array, and is scheduled to be the next site. "Our long-term plan is to make Lewes District self-sufficient in energy through renewable generation by all possible means," says director, Chris Rowland. "We already have three years' experience of managing Lewes District Council's grant scheme for domestic renewable installations including passive solar, solar PV, wood burning stoves and ground source heat pumps, and running energy audits on domestic and public buildings.

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