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Share offer launched in green energy plan

Shropshire and Telford Community Energy (STCE), a local Community Benefit Society (BenCom), has launched a community share offer to fund the transfer of Twemlows solar farm near Whitchurch into community ownership.

The share offer 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.

Twemlows solar farm has been successfully operating since 2016 and, with a capacity of 10MWp, it supplies enough electricity for the equivalent of 3,400 average homes, saving over 4,000 tonnes of carbon per year. Since the solar farm was completed it has had very few technical issues. It has been built on grade 3b agricultural land (moderate quality) on which a local farmer grazes their sheep between the panels.

Robert Saunders, chair of Shropshire and Telford Community Energy (STCE), said: “Our aim is to raise the capital needed to purchase this highly-efficient operating solar farm and deliver a substantial increase in community benefits for many years to come.

"We have ambitions to develop other community energy projects, and are working on a heat and wind project in Bishop’s Castle. Twemlows is supporting a cleaner, greener, fairer future helping to accelerate the transition to net zero and we hope lots of local people will join us on the journey.”

STCE has already distributed £22,500 from the Twemlows community fund this year. Once it is community-owned, it is expected to generate a community benefit pot of £4.5 million over the next 18 years.

Local projects already supported include:

The Park Lane Centre provides a huge range of services for all ages in the local community.  Manager Jacqui Idiens said: “We wanted the children to have hands-on experience of conservation of resources, so harvesting rainwater to water their seeds and plants is a perfect lesson for them in their early lives. The LED lights will be making a small but significant reduction in the centre’s running costs.”

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 £730,000.

Funds raised above this amount will help to increase the Community Benefit Funds available. Shareholders will become a member of Shropshire and Telford Community Energy on a one vote per shareholder basis and have a say in how the BenCom is run in future.

This share offer is particularly innovative as STCE is part of a partnership with four other like-minded BenComs in England and Wales called Community Energy Together (CET). Three others are launching their share offers with similar terms, with the fourth following shortly.

CET aims to raise £2.5 million to bring seven solar farms into community ownership and generate a collective community benefit fund of £20 million over the solar farms’ lifetime, growing the community solar sector in England and Wales by 20%.

Robert Saunders said: “Community-owned energy gives individuals the vital opportunity to play a part in the clean energy transition beyond just being a consumer. STCE is in great company with four like-minded Community Benefit Societies. While owning our individual solar farms, we are committed to working together and supporting each other so that we can benefit from each other’s expertise, experience and share knowledge and lessons along the way.”

Emma Bridge, chief executive of Community Energy England, said: “The simultaneous  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 October 27, 2023 but may close earlier if fully subscribed.

To download the Share Offer Documents and invest, visit: www.ethex.org.uk/invest/stce