Community-owned solar farm powers up in West Sussex

Solar farm near Merston enabled by funding from £1.2m share offer

Meadow Blue Community Energy (MBCE), a community benefit society, is celebrating as the 5MWp solar farm near Merston has been connected to the grid. It will generate enough clean solar electricity to power the equivalent of 1,515 local homes . The finance was raised following a popular share offer, which raised more than the target amount in less than three weeks.

The site was developed by Solstice Renewables and constructed by Solarcentury. Mongoose Energy worked with MBCE to ensure the solar project was brought to life smoothly and cost effectively. All organisations share a commitment to maximising the biodiversity opportunity at the site, which will remain in agricultural use with grazing for sheep over the winter; and with a bespoke ecological plan implemented to promote native wildflowers and biodiversity.

The hedges and tree lines surrounding the site provide a natural barrier that screens the nearby residents and community. Additional hedges will be planted by Solarcentury once the construction is complete. With regard to visibility, the surrounding land is flat so the solar farm will not be prominent within the wider landscape. During construction, no artificial lighting was used in order to avoid disturbing wildlife. In addition, Solarcentury built a fence around the existing hedgerow during construction to protect hedgerows and ditches from construction vehicle movements. This created an undisturbed margin to minimise disturbance of wildlife.

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. Our share offer was launched on Ethex with 48% of investors living 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.”

Giovanni Maruca, Director, Solstice Renewables, said: “We have been developing Merston solar farm over three and a half years, so I’m really pleased that it’s now almost complete. It’s a great project, with the local community and commercial solar sector working together effectively to build a very good solar farm which will help make a difference to climate change.”

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. The completion means the array will generate over 5,000MWh each year, with the old, higher feed in tariff fixed for 20 years. This 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.”

The site was connected in June 2016.

Notes to editors
In November 2020 Solarcentury joined forces with Statkraft – read the press release here www.solarcentury.com/statkraft-acquires-solarcentury

About Solarcentury: Established in 1998, Solarcentury is a leading global solar power company that develops, constructs, owns and operates utility-scale solar and smart technology. Solarcentury is known internationally for developing and building some of the largest utility-scale solar projects in the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, Kenya and Mexico, including pioneering projects such as the world’s first solar bridge at Blackfriars Station in Central London.
Solarcentury’s mission is to make a meaningful difference in the global fight against climate chaos by making solar power the dominant energy source worldwide. During Solarcentury’s 22-year history the business has helped solar power become mainstream, and our projects have generated 6 billion kWh of clean electricity, saving over 1.7 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.
About Statkraft: Statkraft is a leading company in hydropower internationally and Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy. The Group produces hydropower, wind power, solar power, gas-fired power and supplies district heating. Statkraft is a global company in energy market operations. Statkraft has 4,000 employees in 17 countries. www.statkraft.com

Solarcentury’s press office is available at PR@solarcentury.com.