West Sussex chooses solar farm to achieve energy targets
The starting point
Meadow Blue Community Energy (MBCE) are a Community Benefit Society, owned and run by its members – Sussex residents. It was set up to help West Sussex meet its renewable energy targets.
They decided that to achieve this, they would invest in a solar farm, Merston Solar Farm. The solar farm was developed by Solstice Renewables and financed by Mongoose Energy , with MBCE there to ensure that the project was brought to life smoothly and cost effectively.
The finance for the project was raised following a popular share offer. It usurped the expectations and targets in less than three weeks!
The solar farm developed was 5MWp in Chichester. Solarcentury was selected as the EPC and finished the construction in 6 weeks! 19,000 solar panels were installed, enough to power 1,515 local homes.
All the organisations involved in the different stages of the project had a shared commitment to ensure environmental high standards were met and the need to maximise the biodiversity of the site.
To achieve this Solarcentury ensured that no artificial lighting was used during construction to avoid disturbing wildlife and in addition, and a fence was built to protect hedgerows and ditches from vehicle movements. Hedges and tree lines were planted surrounding the site to create a natural barrier and preserve the view from the nearby residents.
Once constructed the soil has seeded with native wildflowers ensuring species-rich grassland areas are sustained beneath panels. The site is suitable for agricultural use and as a wild flower meadow with grazing for sheep, all to boost local biodiversity. And a viewing platform has been built so that the local community can visit any time.
Chris Rowland, Director at MBCE said: “This has been an exciting opportunity for community energy in Sussex to scale up locally-owned renewable electricity generation. 48% of investors live within 35 miles of the solar farm. Income from generation will not only pay our investors, but also create a community benefit fund aimed at alleviating fuel poverty and generating more low carbon energy for Sussex.”
Tim Rose, Sales Director Europe at Solarcentury commented, “Solarcentury is delighted to have been able to build this community owned solar farm for MBCE. We have been engaged to build five such community projects to date and our experience at working alongside other partners involved in these projects has been essential given the tight project timescales. We also take pride in putting in place initiatives during construction that minimise the impact on local wildlife.”
Jan-Willem Bode, CEO of Mongoose, said: “The Merston array is among the UK’s largest community energy solar projects and the £1.2 million raised through its crowd-funded share offer highlights the support the project has received from the local community. It gives an income for the organisation, its members and importantly for the local community schemes it backs, which will include energy efficiency projects and biodiversity education programmes.”
Power and payback
- System size: 5MWp
- Annual generation: 499 000 KWh
- CO2 savings per annum: 2095 tonnes