West Solent Solar Cooperative: power to the people
West Solent Solar Cooperative (WSSC) was formed in 2013 and is Hampshire’s first solar co-operative. The cooperative believes that community owned and managed renewable energy can help fight climate change. To realise its goal of localised clean energy, the organisation decided to build a community owned solar farm.
The cooperative secured planning for a 2.4 MWp solar farm in December 2013, then attracted investment from nearly 500 people, raising over £2.5m of funding following a very successful share offer, supported by Energy4All.
Solarcentury was selected to build the solar farm because of the natural synergies between the two organisations; both believe in fighting climate change through the widespread adoption of solar PV.
Solarcentury worked closely with WSSC to create a project and construction plan that aligned with the timetable of the community fundraising activity.
The construction challenges
Since the site is located at the end of a single lane road with two schools nearby, all site deliveries were organised between the hours of 9am and 3pm to avoid large vehicles on the road during busy school times.
The construction strategy factored in that the land is a former quarry with a high water table, and the ground is a mixture of materials. So trench sizes and building methods were specifically adapted for this land type to ensure the ground stayed firm and didn’t delay the building work.
The solar farm is located on a brownfield site, a restored gravel pit, and was connected to the grid in June 2014. It is now generating clean solar electricity that powers close to 600 homes in the Pennington and Lymington area.
WSSC Chairman, Anthony Woolhouse, commented, “Solarcentury is one of the most experienced and inspirational developers in the UK, so we were confident the company was the right choice for us. Solarcentury’s technical excellence and highly-skilled project management expertise made them very satisfying to work with. As well as bringing green energy to Hampshire, investing in the solar farm offers local people and others the opportunity to benefit from better returns than currently offered by banks and building societies, while fighting climate change. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
Power and payback
Estimations only, correct at time of installation
System size: 2.40 MWp
Annual generation: 2,500 MWh
CO2 savings per year: over 1,000 tonnes
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