Meet the solar project powering the local community in more ways than one
Posted by Alison Vickers on 17 January 2018 at 10:16 am
Here at YouGen we love to hear about your inspiring success stories when it comes to setting up grassroots energy projects within local communities. We would take this opportunity to tell you the story of a community energy project in Buckinghamshire coordinated by our parent charity, The National Energy Foundation. The operation of the solar farm is being managed by Communities for Renewables CIC and PFALZ Solar, both of whom are experienced contractors in this field.
Located near the small town of Buckingham is the small but beautiful rural village of Gawcott. Gawcott Fields Farm which houses an amazing solar farm which is dedicated to supporting the local community in a rather unique way, quite different to how you might imagine.
The Gawcott Fields Solar Farm was completed in June 2016 and is made up of over 16,000 solar panels! It is a 4.17 megawatt solar array and is generating over 4 million kWh of renewable electricity each year. This is generating enough to power around 1000 homes a year - pretty impressive to be tucked away in the corner of rural Buckinghamshire.
Equally impressive is the amount raised by a bond offer (£414,800) allowing people and organisations to invest in the solar farm and receive annual interest of 6% plus their capital back over 20 years. The first bond interest payment is due to paid in January 2018 and is eagerly awaited by local investors.
Now to the best part of the Gawcott Fields Solar Farm project - as we all know solar panels generate income through the selling of electricity to the National Grid, and this project is no different. In this case, once the operating and finance costs have been paid the surplus income is used to provide funding for community organisations and projects in the local area. For the first 15 years of the project this surplus income will be around £20,000 per year, rising to £50,000 per year once the bank loan has been paid off in year 16. The amount of money given to the community should total around £2 million over 30 years! This will keep this amazing amount of money within the local community and show others how renewable energy projects can not only affect energy needs within the local area but also make a difference to the local economy as well.
So what sort of projects is the solar farm funding? Well for the first year the surplus income has been split in half to fund two separate projects. The first half of the money has gone towards a grant fund to help sports clubs and teams across the local area. The first round of funding will be launched in early 2018.
The second community impact project is to help local vulnerable members of the community who are struggling to keep warm in their homes (jointly run by Aylesbury Vale Citizens Advice and The National Energy Foundation). The project aims to help residents access funding for cavity wall and loft insulation, replace oil boilers, provide general energy saving tips and advice and free home visits.
I’m sure you will agree that these are two worthwhile causes to be supporting during the solar farm’s first year of operation, providing social, economic and environmental benefits to those within the community. As you can see this is a really inspiring project tasked with not only creating more renewable energy generation capacity nationally but also making sure it benefits the local community too.
If you know of any other interesting community renewable projects please let us know, we would love to hear about them. Share your stories with us in the comments section below.
Gawcott Solar Array/Farm
Community Outreach Event at Buckingham Library
About the author: Alison joined The National Energy Foundation in 2017 as a Households and Communities Project Officer. With a BA in English and Politics and an MA in Environmental Politics from Keele University, Alison plays a key role in the delivery of the Better Housing Better Health service andGawcott Solar - two charitable projects coordinated by The Foundation.
If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.
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