£195,000 released early so community solar farms can help local people face the COVID-19 crisis

Six community-run solar farms in England and Wales have advanced a total of £195,000 in community benefit funds in order to support their local communities through the Covid-19 crisis.

The solar farms have all received investment from and are supported by Community Owned Renewable Energy (CORE) Partners.

CORE is a social investment partnership between Big Society Capital and charitable trust Power to Change. Its aim is to bring solar farms into community ownership and deliver lasting local community benefits.

In these exceptional times, CORE and its advisors, Environmental Finance, engaged with its community partners to plan the early funding release in order to tackle the local impacts of the Covid-19 crisis. The funding is comprised of early payments from the annual community benefit funds of the solar farms alongside additional top up funds, which are made up as follows:

  • Sheriffhales, a 3.2MW solar farm in Shifnal, Shropshire, received £50,489
  • Orchard 2, a 5MW solar farm near Sittingbourne, Kent, received £46,199
  • Newton Downs, a 5MW solar farm near Plymouth, Devon, received £35,761
  • Creacombe, a combined 7.3MW solar farm, also near Plymouth, which includes the UK’s first subsidy-free community solar farm, received £21,939
  • Twemlows, a combined 10MW solar farm near Whitchurch, Shropshire, received £20,264
  • Brynwhilach, a 5MW solar farm near Llangyfelach, north of Swansea received £20,000

 

Anna Shiel, Head of Origination at Big Society Capital, said: “CORE’s support demonstrates how social investment can help communities respond to crisis. CORE’s flexibility means six communities are able to use incomes from their solar farms to tackle local challenges quickly. We know the vast majority of social enterprises and charities are facing challenges as a result of Covid-19. Big Society Capital is committed to exploring options to offer support as widely as we can.”

Vidhya Alakeson, Chief Executive at Power to Change,said: “The Covid-19 crisis is impacting every part of society in one way or another. By releasing these funds early, community-run solar farms can continue to support their communities through this uncertain time and decide how best this money can help local people.”

André Sarvarian, Associate Director at Environmental Finance said: “In this uncertain period, the value of a community owned infrastructure asset that can generate a stable cash flow for the community is reinforced – the original hypothesis of CORE was to embed these valuable assets into community hands to make those communities more resilient and able to react to local social need – this early and substantial release of funds goes a long way to proving that hypothesis.”

The community energy groups running each solar farm will individually be deciding how to best distribute the funds locally, where they are most needed and can have the greatest impact.

CORE has invested in nine solar farms with a combined capacity of c. 40MW and aims to transfer these into full community ownership by 2022, whilst maximising the financial, environmental and social impact for their local communities. After this process has been completed, they are expected to generate several million pounds over their lifetimes to be distributed locally for community benefit.

The first investment offers for the community solar farms are expected to be launched later this summer, allowing local people to have a stake in their local green energy generating assets.

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Notes to editors

Media contact: Sophy Fearnley-Whittingstall, SFW Communications

sophy@sfwcommunications.co.uk 07979 368238

About CORE

Community Owned Renewable Energy LLP (CORE) is a £50 million investment partnership between Power to Change and Big Society Capital. CORE’s portfolio of nine solar farms across England and Waleshave a total enterprise value of over £50 million and generating capacity of c. 40MW, capable of providing the annual domestic electricity consumption for 13,500 homes. The solar farms are being optimised to enhance their performance, reduce operating costs and maximise community benefit. CORE will then transfer all the projects into full community ownership over the next few years. www.corepartners.org.uk

About Environmental Finance

Environmental Finance (EF) developed the CORE investment structure and now serves as adviser to CORE LLP. EF specialises in the creation and management of innovative, investable environmental projects and investment funds that are specifically structured to deliver quality returns for investors, local communities and the environment at large. www.environmentalfinance.co.uk

About Power to Change

Power to Change is the independent trust that supports community businesses in England. Community businesses are locally rooted, community-led, trade for community benefit and make life better for local people. The sector owns assets worth £890m, and comprises 9,000 community businesses across England who employ 33,600 people. (Source: Community Business Market 2019)

From pubs to libraries; shops to bakeries; swimming pools to solar farms; community businesses are creating great products and services, providing employment and training and transforming lives. Power to Change received its endowment from the National Lottery Community Fund in 2015. Power to Change is a signatory of the Funder Commitment on Climate Change.

www.powertochange.org.uk @peoplesbiz

About Big Society Capital

Big Society Capital is the UK’s leading social impact investor. We unite capital, expertise and ideas to improve people’s lives.

Working with expert partners, we seek to understand people’s needs first. Then, using our knowledge and capital, we collaborate and invest with fund managers who also want to create a better, sustainable future. They, and the social enterprises and charities they invest in, create the impact. Our role is to bring the most relevant experts from our network to the table, generating ideas and connecting capital to where it’s most needed. With the others who have invested alongside us, we have made nearly £2 billion of new capital available to help improve lives.

We want to give more people and communities the chance to have an impact on the issues they care about – from affordable homes to vulnerable older people and preventing mental ill health.

In this way, we create opportunities for investors and enterprises to generate systemic social change, not just today but for generations to come.

www.bigsocietycapital.com @BigSocietyCap