The village of Sheriffhales in Shropshire only has about 700 residents, no shop or pub – but it does have a solar farm.
It has been given a funding boost thanks to its community energy scheme.
Proceeds from the farm go towards community projects, and have paid for food parcels, a subsidised taxi service and a village hall extension.
Those behind the scheme say they are “proud” of what they have achieved.
The 3.2MW solar farm has the capacity to generate 984,000 kWh of renewable electricity – enough to power 825 homes each year.
It was originally commissioned in 2016 by a commercial renewable energy company.
Earlier this year, Sheriffhales Community Energy (SCE) was able to take out a loan through Triodos Bank UK and also used funding from community bonds, to bring the solar farm into full community ownership.
SCE, a community benefit society governed by local directors, expects to generate a surplus of about £1m for community projects over the solar farm’s expected operating life to 2040.
The not-for-profit firm has already given out over £150,000 for community projects, including at Sheriffhales Primary School.
It received funding for new lighting, towards allotments and for support during the pandemic.
Justine Keeling-Paglia, its acting head teacher, said: “This is a very, very small village, with a school and a church and a village hall, that’s the centre of it – and we’re very much the heart of the village.”
The money during the pandemic, she said, helped the school “stay open”.
“It is phenomenal, and it is a wonderful demonstration of community in action,” she said.
At St Mary’s Church, the solar farm provided £20,000 to enable plans to be put together to repair the tower roof, reorient the bell frame and stop a decades-old problem of rainwater damage.
The Reverend Chris Thorpe said the church had “served this community through so many centuries”.
“One hundred years ago they did a huge refurbishment… we’re just picking up the baton to do the same again,” he said.
The £20,000 donation he said had been “amazing” and had helped pay engineers and get survey work done, before it looks to raise the £200,000 needed for the project.
Peter Bonsall, chair of the community energy board, said the feed-in tariff meant the solar farm received a regular income from selling its electricity to the national grid.
The system is designed to promote the uptake of renewable electricity generation.
Those behind the solar farm are currently considering adding an electric vehicle charging point, which would further increase the money available to the community.
“Obviously we’ve got costs, but we have a minimum amount which is guaranteed to go to the community,” Mr Bonsall said.
“The actual structure of a community renewable energy project feeding in to the local community, eventually it does work, it does good things and we’re all of us, the whole board, we’re very proud of what we have done.”
Source : BBC