Solar Goes Big In U.K., Community Owned

Britain has its first combined clean energy zone after the completion of the Westmill Solar Farm. The solar plant – itself the largest in the United Kingdom – was connected to the national power grid and, in conjunction with other solar and wind-power plants in the Oxfordshire area, will power the equivalent of 4,000 homes over the next 25 years.

Westmill’s 23,000 photovoltaic panels began supplying about 5 megawatts (MW) of power at peak output on July 20, after soaking up sun the day before, and the plant alone could supply 1,500 homes with power.

Image via Blue Energy

The solar plant will be at the center of the U.K.’s largest community cooperative project, which will be partially owned by residents, community members and other shareholders. In October, a share offer will allow residents and shareholders to invest anywhere between £250 and £20,000 (about $400-$32,000) for an average return rate of 10 percent over 25 years. This same idea was carried out successfully in 2007 with the Westmill Wind Farm, when £5 million ($8.2 million) was raised by 2,5oo residents to install community-owned turbines.

Westmill Solar Co-Op director Adam Twine is optimistic about the project, foreseeing a tremendous public response. “Local ownership of a solar farm in the U.K. on this scale will be a first,” he said. “We expect to be oversubscribed for the share offer as we were for a similar scheme involving the wind farm. It’s our hope that this model of local people taking positive action to address climate change and generate renewable energy effectively in their own community will be replicated across the U.K.”

Westmill Solar Farm was constructed by Blue Energy over the course of just eight weeks, and was developed by renewable energy company Low Carbon Solar.

Laura Caseley is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz and a resident of New York State’s Hudson Valley. She writes for several publications and when she’s not writing, she can usually be found painting in her makeshift studio or enjoying the scenery of her hometown.

    • Anonymous

      When are we going to see this kind of development in US Cities and towns???u00a0 When are we going to force public utilities to implement clean energy projects like this?u00a0 If we have to place a tax on electricity bills that will be used for alternative energy development I’m 100% in support of doing it.u00a0 We can offset the business taxes by increasing fines on those power facilities that contribute to growing carbon emissions and pollution.u00a0 That’s the only way a carrot and a stick can work.u00a0 Most businesses will prefer the lower business tax than paying fines.u00a0 They will have more incentive to create a R&D and construction reserve for deploying solar plants.u00a0u00a0 Let’s use some strategic common sense.

    • BlueRock

      > Westmill Solar Farm was constructed by Blue Energy over the course of just eight weeks…nnAnd that is the killer advantage of solar + wind over nukes. You’ll be lucky to build one nuke in 8 *years*.nnP.S. A good rebuttal to the anti-solar talking point that developments like this steal valuable agricultural land:nn* http://www.wren.uk.com/1/post/2011/07/250kw-pv-scheme-at-chapel-amble-officially-switched-on-by-dan-rogerson-mp-and-jeremy-leggett-author-of-the-solar-century.htmlnnAs the farmer says in that video, his lambs will be very happy sheltering under the PV panels during the winter.

    • BlueRock

      > Westmill Solar Farm was constructed by Blue Energy over the course of just eight weeks…nnAnd that is the killer advantage of solar + wind over nukes. You’ll be lucky to build one nuke in 8 *years*.nnP.S. A good rebuttal to the anti-solar talking point that developments like this steal valuable agricultural land:nn* http://www.wren.uk.com/1/post/2011/07/250kw-pv-scheme-at-chapel-amble-officially-switched-on-by-dan-rogerson-mp-and-jeremy-leggett-author-of-the-solar-century.htmlnnAs the farmer says in that video, his lambs will be very happy sheltering under the PV panels during the winter.