Triodos Bank UK, alongside Social and Sustainable Capital, has provided a new finance deal for the largest community-owned solar farm in the UK, located in Warwickshire.
The 60,000 solar panel Heart of England Community Energy solar farm near Stratford-upon-Avon has the capacity to generate 14.7MW of electricity – enough to power around 4,500 homes.
The solar farm is co-located with 3MW of batteries operated by a third party, meaning that the site is used both to generate clean solar energy and provide battery storage services to the grid.
The transaction was undertaken to secure long-term, lower-cost finance for the solar project, with reduced loan repayments allowing more money to be used to support community projects. The total package of £16.3m combines senior loans of around £1 m from Triodos Bank UK with junior loans from Social and Sustainable Capital (SASC) of around £4.3m. SASC provided capital to fund the community acquisition of the solar farm in 2016.
Heart of England Community Energy uses profits from the solar farm to support a fuel poverty advice service run by local charity Act on Energy and a community grant fund. The community grant fund has so far provided funding to Harbury e-Wheels, a Warwickshire-based community transport charity, and SolarAid, a charity working in Africa to provide solar lights.
The project is managed by Communities for Renewables (CfR) CIC, which provides company and asset management services to 50MW of community solar projects across seven localities and has a longstanding relationship with Triodos Bank. The two organisations have worked together on a previous solar farm financing for Burnham and Weston Energy in Somerset, the second largest community solar farm in the UK.
Jake Burnyeat, director at Communities for Renewables CIC, said: “CfR and the Heart of England Community Energy board are very pleased to have reached this milestone. The loans from Triodos Bank and Social and Sustainable Capital provide a long-term lower cost finance solution which will help increase surplus income generated by the community solar farm to support local projects. It is also important that the funders share our values. Look out for the community bond offer which will launch next year and give an opportunity for people from the local and wider community to get involved!”