Common Farm is home to two solar farms on the same site sharing a grid connection, a 5MW community scheme and a 3 MW commercial scheme, energised in 2016.
It was built on poor quality farmland owned by Swindon Borough Council in the village of Wroughton. It is the first solar farm in the UK to invite people to invest directly through Council solar bonds.
PPS devised the unique blend of public sector and community investment to fund construction of the project. The £4.8 million cost of the project was met by a £3 million investment from Swindon Borough Council plus £1.8 million raised from direct investment from the public through Council-backed bonds structured by Abundance Investment. With investment available from as little as £5 and offering a 6% return for 20 years, the scheme closed a month early due to high demand.
The project is set up as a Community Interest Company, with 65% of the distributable profits from the solar farm funding local community initiatives, while the remaining 35% goes to the Council.
The site also promotes biodiversity, with the land around the panels remaining in agricultural use for sheep grazing for part of the year.
Another innovative aspect of the project was Swindon Borough Council’s use of Local Development Orders to grant planning consent. This speeds up the planning process but still allows full public consultation.
It is companies like Swindon’s Public Power Solutions that are helping transform Britain’s green economy, with their innovative approach to developing and financing renewable energy infrastructure and track record of procuring and delivering projects that bridge the gap between the public and private sector.
The Rt Hon Claire Perry MP
Former Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth