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New £1.1m community solar plant lights up 55,000 bulbs

Investors in a £1.1 million community solar plant in Somerset celebrated its official opening earlier this month.

The electricity generated is enough to power 55,000 light bulbs or more than 1,100 microwaves.

The majority of shareholders are from the surrounding area, attracted by a lower investment threshold of £250 for local residents and a desire to reduce their community’s carbon footprint.

The solar power plant off Quab Lane is generating the same amount of electricity as 300 typical domestic solar arrays and feeding it into the local grid.

Every year it will save around 450 tonnes of carbon dioxide that would otherwise be produced through burning fossil fuels. Sheep will graze the grass below the solar panels and new hedges of native species to be planted in the coming weeks will help screen the site.

Some of the co-operative’s profits will be invested back into the community in the form of grants for local organisations and charities.

More than £810,000 has been invested in the co-operative so far, with £140,000 worth of shares still available and seven-year bonds also on offer.

A bridging loan has enabled the Co-operative to complete the solar plant ahead of schedule.

Incentives for investors include a projected interest rate starting at 5 per cent and averaging 9.5 per cent over the 27-year life of the project and 30 per cent tax relief available under the Government’s Enterprise Investment Scheme.

Co-operative secretary Robin Mewes, said: We are delighted to have opened our solar energy plant, enabling our community to reduce its carbonemissions and take control of its energy production, thus becoming more resilient.”

He added: “Even in November, the system is powerful enough to run 55,000 light bulbs or more than 1,100 microwaves all at once.”

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