BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 25 March '16

Community-owned solar park will help to address fuel poverty

Renewable energy is a multi-billion pound industry; over the next 20 years, renewables will account for two-thirds of all new investment in energy generation as fossil fuels are slowly replaced with sustainable alternatives.

The Isle of Wight has just about the best solar resource in the UK coupled with a very good tidal resource – it has the potential to become a centre of excellence for renewable energy generation, and yet 15% of the island’s adults are affected by fuel poverty.

‘I personally think it’s a scandal that 25% of children on the island are growing up in fuel poverty. This means there will be days when their parents have to choose between food and heat. This is the 21st century in probably the warmest part of the country. That’s a scandal that needs to be addressed.’

Colin Palmer, green energy veteran and chairman of Wight Community Energy (WCE)

Investing in the future

WCE may well be the solution: islanders are being given an opportunity to invest in a solar park and, by bringing it into community ownership, play their part in the island’s sustainable energy future.

The original aim was for WCE to generate £2.4 million to fund initiatives to help shrink the Isle of Wight’s carbon footprint and supply enough power to support over 1,300 island homes. Under Colin’s leadership, WCE has already secured £4.58 million in investment and the solar park, built by cleantech energy firm Anesco, was commissioned in December.

The 3.95MW site at Homestead Farm, to the north of Newbridge, will generate 4.68MWh of power each year.

As it’s already been built and registered with Ofgem, the site’s income through the Feed-in Tariff is guaranteed for 20 years. The FiT rate isn’t affected by the government’s recent cuts to the tariffs, giving additional assurance to investors and benefits to the island’s community.

The share offer

The minimum share holding is only £500, and WCE is projecting a return of 7% per year. As an added benefit, shares will be exempt from inheritance tax once they have been held for 12 months. Those who invest will also have a vote in how the community fund, predicted to be £2.4 million over the scheme’s 25-year life, will be invested back into the island to help tackle fuel poverty and develop the island’s smart, sustainable energy future.

Working alongside Colin at WCE is an enviable management team that includes Dr Jeff Kenna, an expert in community energy and the man behind some of the UK’s most successful community energy projects. He’s joined by Ray Harrington-Vail, a Carisbrooke-based conservation and environment expert, co-founder of the Footprint Trust and board member of Isle of Wight Community Action. Steve Webb, who has run share offers to finance 17MW of community renewable energy projects and David Bunker, a Centre for Sustainable Energy trustee and a director of the Windcluster 2000 wind farm, complete the team.

For this project WCE has partnered with Mongoose Energy, the UK’s leading community energy firm, to provide best practice advice and support and ensure the longevity and efficiency of the solar farm.

Click here to find out more about Mongoose and its community energy projects.