Hampshire Community Solar Farm Supplying 600 Homes

2 July 2014, 11:57 | Updated: 2 July 2014, 11:59

A community energy project in the New Forest which has transformed an old gravel pit site into a solar farm is now producing power for 600 local homes.

The West Solent Solar Co-operative (WSSC) raised the investment for the £2.6 million scheme from about 500 people from the local area and around the UK in just eight weeks, and was oversubscribed by more than £250,000.

The 2.4 megawatt renewables scheme, which covers 12.6 acres with 9,372 panels, has been constructed by solar company Solarcentury on the brownfield site at Lower Pennington near Lymington.

Anthony Woolhouse, director of WSSC, said:

"We're delighted that we were able to raise the funds in such a short space of time. In fact, we were oversubscribed by over £250,000.

"This is an excellent example of a community-owned and managed renewable energy project which we hope can be repeated elsewhere.

"As well as bringing green energy to Hampshire, it offers local people and others the opportunity to benefit from better returns than currently offered by banks and building societies while fighting climate change. It's a win-win for everyone.''

The site, which has been restored from a gravel pit to a field, is also being sown with wildflowers and beehives will be established to create habitat for wildlife. In the autumn, sheep will be brought in to graze the grass between the panels.

Solar farms have raised controversy because of concerns on their impact on the countryside and the subsidies they receive, with the Government proposing to end payments to new large-scale standalone developments two years earlier than planned.

But a recent poll by the Department of Energy and Climate Change revealed solar was the most popular renewable energy source in the UK, with 85% backing solar developments.