The Meadow Blue solar array is a 5 MW solar farm in Merston, located between Chichester and Bognor Regis. The project is 100% community-owned and generates enough electricity every year to power over 1200 average homes.
Meadow Blue solar array was developed by community energy company Ovesco in partnership with Mongoose Energy, following a community share offer in 2015 – raising over £1.2M – through ethical investment platform Ethex. The farm was constructed by Solar Century and purchased in full by Meadow Blue Community Energy using the community share offer and a bank loan. The site went live in July 2016 and will produce energy for around 25 years.
Around 180 people invested in the solar farm initially with the vast majority of investors coming from the local Sussex area around Chichester and Lewes. We give back to the local community through a community benefit fund. This channels any profits after shareholder and loan payments into projects that support the local area. Currently, we are supporting the Sussex Kelp Restoration Project and during the pandemic, we funded laptops for local schools.
As well as helping to generate green, renewable energy at Meadow Blue, we are also focused on increasing biodiversity. We have planted over 400 trees and are looking at further ways to increase diversity to the north of the site.
In the future, we hope to expand the Meadow Blue solar farm by a further 2 megawatts using grants from the Rural Community Energy Fund to initially explore feasibility and to then take the project forward to construction. We've already received initial agreement from the landowner.
Useful learnings from Ovesco
Reach out for available support – Get help from Community Energy England and Community Energy South, they can provide you with lots of advice and support. You're also going to need funding and the Rural Community Energy Fund may be able to provide grant funding for an initial feasibility study.
Think about scale – Since we built Meadow Blue solar array, Feed-in Tariffs are no longer available. Though electricity prices have gone up since then, and solar prices have come down some, there are now supply chain issues. To just sell to the grid and make it viable today, you may have to think on a bigger scale.
Bring in a range of skills – Your board of directors and the skills they bring to a project like this are incredibly important, so think about building your team carefully. Financial knowledge, project management skills, legal advice, there are a huge range of skills and expertise that you will need access to.
Community benefit fund support to the local community