Bath and West Community Energy (BWCE)’s 2.34MW Wilmington Farm Solar Array is already up and running: it went live in March and, at the time, was Bath and North East Somerset’s biggest community-owned solar array. Investment from local community members and beyond totalled £2.1 million.
The 12-acre project generates clean electricity and helps reduce our dependence on carbon- intensive fossil fuels; Wilmington Farm Solar Array is expected to save 1,100 tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum.
In its first year, the Wilmington Farm array’s projected annual output is 2,223MWh – enough to meet annual electricity demand for over 650 homes.
The site is managed for conservation purposes; according to the Wildlife Enhancement & Management Plan that was accepted as a planning condition for the project, the land beneath the panels will eventually turn into a wildflower meadow that’s grazed by sheep. Due to the relative lack of human activity on the site, the wildlife and wildflower populations are expected to thrive, enhancing the site’s biodiversity.
Community energy in Bath
BWCE was established as a community benefit society in 2010 as a result of initiatives from local community groups Transition Bath and Transition Community Corsham.
Its purpose is to bring community ownership to energy projects in Bath and the surrounding area, concentrating on projects that will generate significant community benefit, support the local economy, reduce the impact of climate change and increase our energy security.
The Wilmington Farm Solar Array is a significant step towards that goal. The aim is to increase demand for local services and build a local sustainable energy infrastructure that will make local communities more resilient in the face of increasing energy costs and insecurity.
The story so far
To date BWCE has developed around 620kW of its own solar PV projects. These include a 250kW ground-mounted system at Hartham Business Park and a range of roof-mounted schemes on schools and community buildings.
BWCE has developed and commissioned a 1MW solar array in partnership with Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy at Chelworth in Wiltshire, and has successfully raised £2.2 million in partnership with Low Carbon Gordano to develop a 1.8MW solar array at Moorhouse Farm, near Avonmouth.