Activists in England, with help from Westmill Solar Cooperative, have just launched a community-owned solar project, which they claim to be the biggest in the world. They have purchased a 5MW solar farm near the Oxfordshire/Wiltshire border, which generated over 4,900MWh of electricity in the last year. Westmill executive Phillip Wolfe proclaims that the project is a significant step in sourcing greener energy:
“Solar power will become the world’s greatest energy source in our lifetime; heralding a new era of sustainable and ‘democratic’ energy supply. As the success of Westmill shows, solar energy enables ordinary people to produce clean power, not only on their roof tops, but also at utility scale.”
The project attracted 1650 investors, raising almost £6million in just 6 weeks. The press release adds that “the Westmill project has attracted considerable local support, with over 50% of Westmill members living within 40km of the project and positive endorsements from local businesses and councillors; and the benefits of community ownership of Westmill will be felt locally over the next 24 years of the project.”
Westmill shares on their website that the “aims of the project are to combat climate change by financing a reliable source of renewable energy, provide local people and other investors with a stable, reliable source of income, and help the area transition to a low carbon future economy.”
Across the border in Scotland, local communities are pushing for more wind turbines and community ownership as Scotland aims to be 100% renewable by 2020. And it’s not just wind power. The communities are pushing for more marine power, and now the Scotsman reports that there are plans to bring solar energy to Scottish farms:
Scotland on Sunday has learned that a Glasgow-based solar panel developer, TGC Renewables, is in talks with Scottish farms to set up two test sites following successful trials in the south of England. Although Scotland enjoys fewer hours of sunshine than Devon and Cornwall, developers insist that longer daylight hours and microclimates linked to the jet stream make large-scale solar projects viable north of the Border.
It is claimed that solar farms, made up of rows of shiny, rectangular panels “planted” just a few metres above the ground in fields and angled towards the sun, will blend into the landscape far more easily than wind turbines, which have provoked widespread opposition. The photovoltaic panels capture the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity.
Solar farms could generate an estimated £14,000 per acre per year for farmers, providing a valuable second income for many who are struggling after extreme rainfall destroyed a number of crops over the summer.