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 organizations share a commitment to maximizing 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 minimize 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 minimize 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 organization, its members and importantly for the local community schemes it backs which will include energy efficiency projects and biodiversity education programs.”
The site was connected in June 2016.