Communities to earn over £2m from solar power generated near their homes

Communities in Shropshire, Kent and the Isle of Wight will be able to invest over £2m in local projects thanks to an investment in local solar farms by Community Owned Renewable Energy LLP (CORE).

CORE is a £40m investment partnership between Power to Change and Big Society Capital which invests in solar farms on behalf of communities. It has invested £12m in three solar farms with a combined capacity of 12MW and aims to transfer all three into full community ownership over the next three years.

With its investment, CORE aims to maximise the social, environmental and financial benefits of each asset for local residents. Surplus profits generated by each solar farm will be handed over to their local community over 20 years.

CORE’s refinancing of Sherrifhales, a 3.2MW solar farm in Shifnal, Shropshire, will provide at least £700,000 for Sherrifhales Community Energy to invest in local community projects.

The CORE investment in Orchard 2, a 5MW solar farm near Sittingbourne, Kent, is projected to deliver a minimum of £1.2m to support disadvantaged communities in Kent.

The debt restructuring by CORE for Homestead, a 3.7MW solar farm near Newport on the Isle of Wight, has secured £700,000 of community shares bought in large part by local residents and will enable Wight Community Energy to invest at least £360,000 for the benefit of their local community.

CORE acquired its first asset, the 5MW solar farm Newton Downs, near Plymouth in Devon, from Good Energy in December 2017. Newton Downs is projected to contribute £1.4m over 30 years to the local community and has already distributed £20,000 to local causes including schools, environmental projects and community housing.

The future in community ownership now secured, Environmental Finance, adviser to CORE, will restructure each solar asset to increase the surplus profits where possible for each local community. CORE will then support each community to raise the funds to take full ownership of these solar assets over the next three years.

Peter Bonsall, Chairman of Sherrifhales Community Energy Company said: “The church, village school and village hall are already benefiting from funds allocated to their projects so far. Other active projects are underway such as distributing LED lightbulbs to our parishioners and starting a regular transport project for those in need to visit local shopping facilities”.

Colin Palmer, Chairman of Wight Community Energy said: “Wight Community Energy’s Homestead solar project was struggling financially under the terms imposed by the original lenders, so we are very pleased to have secured a refinancing package from CORE. In addition to now being able to distribution community funds, we are pleased to become linked to organisations specialising in supporting social enterprises like ours. We are looking forward to a future collaboration that will be much more than the simple banking relationship.”

Vidhya Alakeson, Chief Executive at Power to Change said: “We are delighted that our investment in CORE enables communities to use the significant funds generated by solar farms to address local priorities and benefit local people. Going forward, we will support each community to raise the money necessary to take full ownership of these assets so they remain in community hands for the long term.”

CORE is currently seeking further investment opportunities which can be transferred into community ownership. Please direct enquiries directly to james.mansfield@environmentalfinance.co.uk and andre.sarvarian@environmentalfinance.co.uk.

 

Ends

Notes to editors

For more information please contact: Alex Valk 07384 812777 alexv@powertochange.org.uk

About CORE: Community Owned Renewable Energy LLP (CORE) is a £40 million investment partnership between Power to Change and Big Society Capital seeking to acquire operational, ground mounted solar farms in England on behalf of community energy groups with a view to transferring them into community ownership whilst maximising their financial, environmental and social impact. www.corepartners.org.uk

About 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. There are nearly 7,000 community businesses across England employing 35,500 people, with a combined income of £1.2bn.

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 Big Lottery Fund in 2015. www.powertochange.org.uk

About Big Society Capital: Big Society Capital improves the lives of people in the UK by connecting social investment to charities and social enterprises.

We know that investment can help charities and social enterprises achieve more. We believe the greatest chance to improve lives comes when investors and enterprises are both motivated by social mission.

We engage with investors, fund managers, charities and social enterprises to make it easier to use social investment. With our co-investors, we have made over £1.7bn of new capital available to organisations with a social mission, through investments into fund managers and social banks. We have a special focus on: providing homes for people in need; supporting communities to improve lives; and early action to prevent problems.

About The National Lottery Community Fund: We are the largest community funder in the UK – we’re proud to award money raised by National Lottery players to communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Since June 2004, we have made over 200,000 grants and awarded over £9 billion to projects that have benefited millions of people.

We are passionate about funding great ideas that matter to communities and make a difference to people’s lives. At the heart of everything we do is the belief that when people are in the lead, communities thrive. Thanks to the support of National Lottery players, our funding is open to everyone. We’re privileged to be able to work with the smallest of local groups right up to UK-wide charities, enabling people and communities to bring their ambitions to life.