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Swansea community solar farm raises over £140,000

Gower Power, a community energy group established 10 years ago in Swansea, has launched a community share offer to fund the transfer of Brynwhilach solar farm at Llangyfilach, Swansea, into community ownership.

The share offer builds on the success of two previous share offers from Gower Power which have supported several exciting local community projects focussing mainly on sustainable energy and growing food. It will enable local people who care about climate change to put their money to work to tackle the issue directly, earn a fair return on their investment, and greatly increase the solar farm’s economic contribution to the local area.

The 4.99MW Brynwhilach solar farm has been successfully operating since 2017, outperforming its generation targets. It produces enough electricity for the equivalent of 1,650 average homes and will save over 45,000 tonnes of carbon over its remaining lifetime.

Ant Flanagan, Gower Power Director and Co-founder, said: “Gower Power started in my living room with a few friends discussing environmental and social issues. In the 10 years since then we’ve helped develop some of Wales’ most exciting community projects, including its first community-owned solar farm, a pioneering local electricity tariff, and a sector-leading Community Supported Agriculture scheme. Now we are inviting local people to join us and bring Brynwhilach solar farm into community ownership so we can continue delivering pioneering projects for many years to come.”

In the last five years Gower Power has received over £55,000 of surplus funds from Brynwhilach to support a wide range of local social and environmental projects such as:

  • Cae Tan CSA – Sustainable Schools
  • Clydach Community Garden
  • Swansea Wellbeing Centre – Cocoon

Under community ownership, the solar farm is expected to generate over £2.7 million in community benefit over the next 23 years. Gower Power wants to use this money to:

  • Develop more renewable energy generation and supply projects
  • Pilot and establish nature-oriented health and wellbeing interventions
  • Create and support more ecologically sensitive food supply chains

Mary Sherwood, Gower Power’s Grants and Development Manager, said: “Brynwhilach contributes to all Well-Being Goals for Wales; supporting us to become more equal, healthy, prosperous, cohesive, resilient and globally responsible, while continuing our cultural heritage of self-sufficiency and co-operative enterprise.”

Gower Power already has a strong track record in innovating local energy projects, whose impacts extend well beyond Wales. Examples include:

  • Gower Regeneration Ltd, the first commercial-scale, community-owned solar farm in Wales, on the site of a former coal mine. It won the REA’s 2017 Renewable Energy Project Award for being “the most commendable sustainable electricity generation project undertaken by a community group in England and Wales”.
  • The Gower Electric Co Local Energy Tariff, which sells discounted electricity from the Gower Regeneration solar farm to a community of up to 250 consumers in Swansea, through a partnership with Ecotricity.
  • Facilitating rooftop solar installations on several local schools, a care home, and two community buildings.

Julie James MS, Minister for Climate Change, said: “I am so pleased that Gower Power is representing Wales in this pioneering initiative that will hugely increase community owned solar across England and Wales. Community ownership means money spent on energy is kept within Wales rather than leaking away to distant companies – it’s a more sustainable economic model as well as a more sustainable way of sourcing energy…This Gower Power project is making a great contribution towards Wales meeting its Well-being Goals and its targets for Net Zero.” 

Brynwhilach solar farm is performing well above its predicted generation and has had very few technical issues. The site is owned by a local landowner, and is a mixture of grade 3b to 5 agricultural land (moderate to very poor quality). While it is already home to an abundance of wildlife, the Gower Power team is investigating ways to further increase biodiversity on the site, including providing bird nesting areas, improving the hedges, and habitats for pollinators.

The share offer is being launched on positive investment platform Ethex with a target annual return of 6%. The minimum investment is just £250 and the total fund raise target is £385,000.

Funds raised above this amount will help to increase the Community Benefit Funds available. Gower Power has recently converted to a Community Benefit Society (CBS) and shareholders will become a member of the Society on a one vote per shareholder basis.

This share offer is particularly innovative as Gower is part of a partnership with four other like-minded CBSs in England and Wales called Community Energy Together (CET). These four others launched their share offers on July 31st with similar terms, and have already raised a collective total of over £675,000. CET aims to raise £2.5 million overall to bring seven solar farms into community ownership and generate a collective community benefit fund of £20 million over the solar farms’ lifetime.

Ant Flanagan added: “As part of CET, Gower Power continues its original co-operative ethos and is now part of a larger, supportive family, working together to get the best out of all our projects and maximising the surpluses we can devote to community benefits.”  

Emma Bridge, Chief Executive of Community Energy England, said: “The launch of these CET share offers marks a significant milestone for community energy. Raising £2.5 million from community investors to create community benefits of c.£20 million demonstrates the immense potential of the sector. Local ownership of our green energy infrastructure is vital for engaging people with the changes we must make to get to net zero.”

The share offer will be open until 27 October 2023 but may close earlier if fully subscribed.