Community-owned renewable energy projects have become increasingly popular in recent months. According to a report published by Co-operatives UK and The Co-operative Group in December of last year, green economy co-operatives are the fastest growing part of the UK co-operative sector, having grown by 24 per cent since 2008.
At the time of publication, 43 communities were in the process of or were already producing renewable energy and this number has continued to rise in the last ten months.
Ed Mayo, General Secretary of Co-operatives UK commented: "Co-operative energy businesses are owned by members and run for members. The co-operative model is a perfect antidote to current energy practices – co-operatives put their members in control of where profits go whether that is back to members, back to the community or to invest in viable green energy projects."
A 5MW solar farm, located outside Shrivenham on the Oxfordshire/Wiltshire border, has now been acquired by Westmill Solar Co-operative.
The Westmill Solar Park consists of 20,000 solar panels across a 30-acre site, capable of powering 1,400 homes annually, making it the largest community-owned solar energy site in the UK. The park saved over 2,000 tonnes of carbon last year.
The co-operative consists of 1,650 members, all of whom invested in shares in the solar park. The £4 million share offer was launched in June of this year and sold out within six weeks – exemplifying solar energy's continuing popularity. The offer was so popular that by the time it closed, it was oversubscribed by around 50 per cent.
Commenting on the project's successful completion, Founder Director Adam Twine, said: "It's been a real team effort to have pulled this off in the face of shifting government policy and tight timescales. Westmill represents the best of what low carbon investment and renewable energy can offer and hopefully will inspire others to realise that when we get together we can make change happen and can engage positively with the threat of climate change."