Swindon council set to sell solar bonds

Swindon residents could be offered the chance to buy bonds in a council-backed solar farm to help support community projects.

The Swindon Community Solar Farm project would be the first of its kind in the UK, allowing residents to invest in Swindon council solar bonds for a minimum stake of £5. Sixty-five per cent of the profits from the solar farm would go towards local community initiatives, with the remaining 35% to investors and the council. Subject to final approval by the council’s cabinet later this month, the bond is expected to have an estimated 6% effective rate of return over 20 years.

Along with the financial benefits, the solar farm – which will have a capacity of 5MW – will help Swindon in its aim to install 200MW of renewable capacity by 2020, enough to meet the equivalent energy requirements of every home in the Borough. A total of 140MW has already been built or is being planned.

A community interest company, wholly owned by Swindon Borough Council, would manage the solar farm. It would cost £4.8m to construct, with £3m coming from the council’s investment, and the remaining £1.8m from community investors. The bonds would be provided in partnership with Abundance Investment, which has raised £15m for 16 different projects in the past three years. The financial details of the proposed project are being finalised.

If approved by the council’s cabinet, the investment offer is expected to be formally launched next month. Construction is due to begin in spring.

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