Braydon Manor Solar Array

 

Photo credits: Pete Medlock

The Braydon Manor Solar Array is located just west of the B4696 near Purton, Wiltshire. It will produce 9.1Mw of clean energy a year, enough to supply over 2,500 houses, and will save 3,900 tonnes of carbon each year of the 25 years planned for the project. Construction of the solar array started in September 2015 and was finished 3 months later. On the 31st of December it was connected to the grid and it has been exporting electricity ever since.

The scheme started as a plan to build a 5Mw community-owned array. We raised nearly £3M from a public share offer in January 2015 and then negotiated a £2.7 loan from Triodos Bank.

Then, in March 2015 the government issued new guidance on community ownership models under its Community Energy Strategy and we realised we had an opportunity to increase the amount of energy generated, reduce our costs and create a larger community benefit fund. We rearranged and extended the site and applied to modify our planning permission. Our partner Mongoose Energy identified a local investor who could buy in to the project, share our physical access and connection to the national grid and split the associated costs. The Braydon Manor Solar Array is the first split ownership solar site in the UK.

The project will have significant ecological benefit. The site is grade 4 agricultural land which was used for raising horses exported to be sold as horsemeat. We have worked on a Biodiversity Management Plan which will turn it into a wildflower meadow in the heart of the Braydon Forest. We will sow it with green hay from a nearby Wiltshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve and manage the land with sheep rather than by mowing. Birds and bats will be encouraged to use surrounding hedgerows and trees for nesting and brooding. We will establish beehives and bug nests. The Solar Array will act as a biodiversity bank and as a home for pollinators to enrich the surrounding farmland.

We were very pleased to receive the award for Best Renewable Energy Scheme at the Regen SW awards ceremony 2015. We are proud that Braydon Manor has been recognised as an exceptional scheme, not only in the community energy sector but as the best standalone renewable energy project in the South West. Of course we really need to share the credit with our team and partners Mongoose Energy, Public Power Solutions, Triodos Bank and particularly, with you our members.

 

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