Community Owned Renewable Energy Partners (CORE) and Yealm Community Energy (YCE) are celebrating the successful connection of the UK’s first subsidy-free community ground-mount solar.
The 7.3MW Creacombe community solar farm began construction in September last year and was energised in two stages: 4.4MW, pre-accredited for the last remaining community feed-in-tariff, was commissioned at the end of December; while the remaining 2.9 MW, which is subsidy free, was commissioned at the end of January.
YCE plans to launch an investment offer this summer to enable the community to invest directly in Creacombe along with another nearby operational solar farm, Newton Downs, which was also acquired in partnership with CORE in late 2017.
Peter Brown, YCE Chair, said: “It is over five years since Yealm Community Energy started to explore the idea of bringing a community solar farm to this part of Devon, and we are very pleased that Creacombe has been able to navigate the ‘solarcoaster’ and is now complete and generating power.
“Both solar farms will be able to generate enough electricity to supply the equivalent of all the homes in our five local parishes helping to meet our Net Zero commitments. Equally important, once we have completed the share offer so they are community owned we expect to generate a healthy profit which will be spent locally to grow other exciting initiatives to tackle the climate crisis such as energy efficiency, electric vehicles and more green power generation.
“We would like to thank the people and organisations that have helped us get to this point: Gnaton Farms and the Lopes family for their support; CORE, Environmental Finance and Next Generation for helping us with the acquisition and transfer to community ownership; and the EPC, Goldbeck Construction, for building the project.”
Leading social and environmental impact investor, Environmental Finance, advised CORE through the development and financing. CORE is a £50m social investment partnership between Big Society Capital and charitable trust Power to Change, whose aim is to bring solar farms into community ownership and deliver lasting local community benefits.
André Sarvarian, Associate Director at Environmental Finance, said “We have been delighted to support Creacombe throughout this process. Having developed and managed CORE, Environmental Finance has been an integral part of the delivery and investment for Creacombe alongside supporting another 32MW of community solar over the last two years. Creacombe sets a leading example which can further stimulate the community energy market towards subsidy-free renewables.
“Creacombe has been developed as a standalone grid-connected project, without the benefit of any pre-existing colocated renewables to draw from, which has required a completely different approach to structuring the project economics for standalone solar. These achievements demonstrate the economic case for subsidy-free community solar in the UK; we have been proud to play a role in further promoting the development of clean energy projects.
“This is also a maiden project for CORE, as Creacombe marks the first new development and construction solar project we have supported, at the end of a two-year investment process. CORE’s portfolio is now complete with nine community solar projects totalling 40MW.”
Will Walker, Community Energy Programme Manager, Power to Change, said: “We are very proud to have played a part in the creation of the UK’s first post-subsidy community owned solar farm at Creacombe.
“Our Next Generation programme is working alongside CORE to equip all the community groups with the knowledge, skills and opportunities that they need to take ownership and develop these solar assets into successful long-term projects that deliver against local needs and priorities. They will bring huge benefits to their local areas, from affordable warmth projects tackling fuel poverty, to better community and cultural spaces.”
Over their operational lifetime, the CORE portfolio of solar farms is expected to generate a surplus of several million pounds that will be used for community benefits, such as funding projects to further decarbonise the Yealm area.
Other than Creacombe, the other solar farms CORE has supported have been operational for a few years and are receiving subsidies. Power to Change’s Next Generation programme is providing YCE and other community groups with support and grants to gain the necessary skills to launch their own community investment offers.
Creacombe solar farm uses PV modules provided by Canadian Solar, with inverters from SMA and transformers from Netze. EPC works were completed by Goldbeck Solar, with non-contestable and contestable grid connection works completed by WPD and Ethical Power Connections respectively.
Creacombe will be managed by Bright Renewables, a community owned renewable energy asset manager set up in 2018 with support from CORE and Power to Change.
NOTES TO EDITORS
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About Yealm Community Energy
Based in South Devon, YCE is a non-profit social enterprise, run by local people, doing things differently. We are offering the opportunity to invest in locally-generated clean electricity with profits going into a community fund to support environmental and social projects in the parishes bordering the Yealm estuary: Newton Ferrers and Noss Mayo, Holbeton, Yealmpton, Brixton and Wembury.
We are a Community Benefit Society, registered with the Financial Conduct Authority.
About CORE Partners
CORE Partners is a £50m social investment partnership between Big Society Capital and Power to Change, targeting solar power assets in England, with the principal objective of turning these into community owned assets, whilst maximising the financial, environmental and social impact for the local community. Big Society Capital is a financial institution set up to build the social investment market in the UK, so that charities and social enterprises can access appropriate repayable finance to enable them to grow, become more sustainable and increase their impact on society. Power to Change is an independent trust, whose funding is used to strengthen community businesses across England.
The community solar projects CORE has supported include:
- Creacombe Community Solar Farm (7.3MW)
- Twemlows Community Solar I and II (10MW)
- Homestead Community Solar (3.9MW)
- Sheriffhales (3.2MW)
- Orchard Community Solar II (5MW)
- Newton Downs (5MW)
- Brynwhilach (5MW)
About Environmental Finance
Environmental Finance (EF) is the UK’s leading environmental impact investment adviser, offering corporate finance advisory and fund management services across conservation, natural capital and renewable energy projects.
EF creates partnerships with leading conservation organisations to design innovative methods of generating investment into conservation of the environment, in the UK and globally. We provide targeted advice working with our partners such as the National Trust, RSPB, WWF and DEFRA and our mission is to be a core part of the impact investment movement to redirect global investment into projects that protect the environment in balance with local communities.
About Next Generation
Next Generation aims to create a step change in the development of genuinely sustainable, financially viable and innovative community businesses, helping to raise the profile of place-based community energy activity with policy-makers and industry.
The initiative is funded by Power to Change, the independent trust that supports community businesses in England.
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.
Visit: www.powertochange.org.uk @peoplesbiz
For more information please contact: Alex Valk 07384 812777