The Westmill Solar Cooperative announced Nov. 1 the launch of the world’s largest community-owned solar project in the south of England near Oxford. The 5 MW 30-acre Westmill solar park consists of 20,260 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and is designed to generate 4.8 GWhr per year, which the cooperative says is equivalent to a year’s electricity consumption for 1,500 homes and enough to prevent 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. The park was built by an initial group of private investors with the intention of selling it to a community-owned cooperative.
The Westmill solar park is located near Watchfield on the border of Wiltshire and Oxfordshire, just off the A420. First connected to the grid in July 2011, the project is expected to operate for 24 years, providing enough power for 1,500 homes annually.
The cooperative financed the Nov. 1 acquisition with a £6 million share offer that attracted about 1,650 investors. The rest of the funding for the £16.5 million project is financed by Investec Bank. Over half of Westmill members live within 40 km of the project, according to the cooperative.
Adam Twine, one of the directors of the cooperative’s board, said in an announcement from the organization that he hopes the project “will inspire others to realize that when we get together we can make change happen and can engage positively with the threat of climate change.” Philip Wolfe, chairman of the cooperative, said solar power represents “a new era of sustainable and ‘democratic’ energy supply” that “enables ordinary people to produce clean power, not only on their rooftops, but also at utility scale.”