Investment in the £5.5m community energy project in Chesterfield has got off to a flying start with more than £2.85m already raised.
Anesco Community Energy is coordinating the project, which has seen a large solar farm installed on a former coal stocking site at Oxcroft, seven miles east of the Derbyshire town.
Chesterfield Community Energy (CCE) is offering a 5% gross returns for investors, with the interest paid every 6 months for an initial 3-year term. In addition to this, CCE is providing a long-term funding stream for local charity groups. With over 30 days remaining until the offer closes, Adrian Pike, chairman of Chesterfield Community Energy, is reporting that the solar bond has been “really well received”.
He said: “We’re thrilled with the reception the offer has received and the response shows that investors have a real appetite for this type of investment. With many more pledges in the pipeline, we believe this is a fantastic opportunity for people to be involved in a community project that has the potential to make a real difference on so many levels.
“The fact that the bonds are for an initial 3 year period and the interest is paid every 6 months at a gross level of 5% has been well received by the initial investors. What is also pleasing is that the solar farm is performing well in its first month of operation, which is obviously critical for the long term income streams.”
The creation of a community fund will see around £15,000 being given to local charities every year, for the 40-year lifetime of the scheme. Groups being supported include The Freedom Community Project, which provides support for people who are struggling with debt, dependency and related issues within North East Derbyshire. Chesterfield Community Energy is also working closely with the local community in Stanfree, where it’s helping to produce a biodiversity masterplan with the Friends of Oxcroft Group.
The Chesterfield Community Energy solar farm covers an area of approximately 11.6 hectares and will generate just over 4,000 MW hours of electricity per year – enough energy to power around 1,200 homes. As a renewable power source, the solar farm will be reducing the region’s carbon emissions by up to 1,800 tonnes per year. Adrian Pike said: “The site is already making a contribution to the National Grid and performing in line with expectations. We’re really delighted with progress to date.”
The solar farm is one of only two community energy projects in the country that will benefit from being connected to a battery storage unit. A 1000 kW / 1200 kWh Energy Storage System (ESS) will be installed on the site, meaning the energy generated can be stored and released when it is most needed.
Partners on the project include The Freedom Community Project based in Bolsover; the Friends of Oxcroft Group; wildlife charity RSPB, which will be working with the site’s developers to introduce natural habitats for ‘priority species’ – the breeds most under threat; Close Brothers; Limejump and cleantech company Anesco.
Adrian concluded: “Our objective is simple – to help share the benefits of renewable energy by giving communities and individuals an opportunity to invest in solar bonds. By backing Chesterfield Community Energy investors will not only be supporting a reduction in the impact of climate change and increasing energy security, but also be helping to generate significant benefits for the community and local economy.”
The Chesterfield Community Energy solar bond offer will remain open until the maximum sum has been reached, or until 31 May 2016. The minimum investment per applicant is £500 for one bond. Applications can only be made via chesterfieldcommunityenergy.
One of the projects the community fund will support is The Freedom Community Project, which provides support for people within North East Derbyshire. The charity will receive £1,500 a year from Chesterfield Community Energy for the lifetime of the project, meaning a total funding of £60,000 over 40 years.
Chesterfield Community Energy has also been working closely with the local community in Stanfree near to the Oxcroft site, including agreeing on a biodiversity masterplan via the Friends of Oxcroft group. The community benefit company has agreed to a £15,000 community beneﬁt, which local people are using to upgrade slow broadband speeds in the area.
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