AN EXCITING project to launch a £1.1million community-owned solar business in Wedmore has been welcomed by villagers.
Around 70 residents attended a public meeting at Wedmore First School Academy last week, which detailed plans to install solar panels on land near Mill Farm, off Quab Lane.
The project, supported by Wedmore Green Group, is being run by Wedmore-based renewable energy consultancy group, Rooftop Consultancy Ltd. Both groups make up the co-operative, Wedmore Community Power Company (WCPC), run by local investors who can buy shares.
Rooftop director Robin Mewes said: “A large number of people at the meeting expressed an interest in joining the co-operative, which is being registered with the Financial Services Authority.
“This is a community venture, so it’s not just about making money for the investors but also about providing benefits for the local area.”
The scheme is for two small paddocks of solar panels on 1.7-hectare and 0.75-hectare of farmland north of the village, which will be surrounded by security fencing. It is hoped it will produce enough electricity to meet the needs of 300 local homes.
Mr Mewes said some of the profits would be ploughed back into the area in the form of grants for community projects such as tackling fuel poverty, installing home insulation and improving community buildings.
The scheme proposes a return of 5% on investments in the first year and shares will have a minimum and maximum spend of between £250 and £20,000 respectively.
Burnham MP Tessa Munt, who attended the meeting, said: “The real benefit of a scheme like this is about taking responsibility and control of the power you use and ploughing the money back into the community. I think it's fantastic."
John Whiten from Ethical Solar, which will install the arrays of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, said the South West was the country’s best region for PV because of its high levels of solar radiation.
He said: “The two arrays planned for adjoining fields off Quab Lane to the north-west of Wedmore would have a peak output of one million watts - enough to run about 1,000 microwaves at any one time.”
“The arrays are designed to be visually unobtrusive and no homes would look down on the panels, which would be screened from view by new hedges.”
WCPC will apply for planning consent from Sedgemoor District Council soon. If granted and funding is in place, construction will start later this year.
Further public meetings about the venture are planned for the coming weeks. For more information contact Robin Mewes on 01934-712826, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.wedmorecpc.co.uk.