Sussex energy cooperative responds to government EIS tax changes by launching 5MW solar fund to beat 30th November cut-off
Plans have been announced for a solar farm in Merston, near Chichester, which aims to provide clean electricity for 1,340 homes, save 2,028 tonnes of CO2 annually and see £4 million raised for local initiatives over 25 years.
The 5MW solar array will be run by the locally based Meadow Blue Community Energy cooperative, with profits brought back to the community. The cooperative will use the profits to run education programmes that enhance biodiversity and reduce energy poverty.
To raise funding for the project, the cooperative has announced a share offer scheme that will be open to people across the UK, with funds raised through the ethical crowd-funding website, Ethex.
The cooperative is seeking to raise £640,000, with people able to invest between £500 and £100,000. Investors will receive a projected 7% return per annum and will be eligible for 30% tax relief through the government’s Enterprise Investment Scheme.
The project is among the UK’s final community energy projects eligible to qualify for EIS tax relief. In October’s Autumn Budget, the Chancellor stated this incentive will end on 30th November, meaning there will never be a better time to invest in community energy projects.
The Merston Community Solar Farm site already has planning permission and the cooperative aims to keep the land in agricultural use.
Under shared ownership 5 + 5 scheme, in line with the government’s community energy framework, 5MW will be owned and operated by Meadow Blue Community Energy, and 5MW will be owned and operated as a commercial solar farm by Primrose Solar.
Dave Barton, director of MBCE and one of the founders of local community energy co-operative Solesco, said: “This project provides a fantastic opportunity for local people in Sussex to invest in and own a part of our renewable energy future. Not only will our project generate clean renewable energy, it will also enhance biodiversity and provide an excellent outdoor learning facility for local school children. We hope to work with local groups to promote agricultural good practice on the site.
“Furthermore, if approved by HMRC, it is the best time ever to invest in a community energy project in the UK to benefit from 30% tax relief through the government’s EIS – to be withdrawn from 30th November 2015.”