The UK-based effort to create the world’s biggest crowd-sourced solar farm has reached a funding milestone, raising enough money to put it on track for its next phase of funding. The Guardian reports that the co-operative set up to buy Westmill Solar – a 5MW 21,000-panel PV installation (one of the UK’s largest arrays), built on farmland between in south-central England about a year ago – announced earlier this month that it had raised the minimum £2.5 million (via 660 investors) necessary to take the project forward to the next stage. The plan, originally conceived by Adam Twine – the farmer on whose land the array was sited, who kept a right to buy it back from its original financiers – is to raise a total of £16.5 million. A quarter of this (£2.5-£4 million) aims to be funded by individual investors, while the remainder (between £12.5-£14 million) is being sought from institutional bond holders.
Crowd funding of renewables – where projects or ideas normally unable to raise money, even from venture capitalists, seek funds from motivated and unaccredited individual investors – is an emerging renewables sub-sector that, according to a recent Bloomberg white paper, could deliver more than $90 billion for the creation of US clean energy projects (not to mention a 5 to 9 per cent return to investors) – and that’s if just 1 per cent of retail investments in savings accounts, money markets and US Treasuries was put into it. In the case of Westmill Solar, the financing model differs a little from the usual crowd-sourcing model, with innovations aimed at improving returns to small investors. These include: an annual 5 per cent buy back of the farm, from years two to 10; dividends paid to shareholders starting low and gradually rising as bond holders are paid off; and after year 24, when the feed-in tariffs end and the paybacks are complete, returns are expected to be over 50 percent a year on the remaining shareholder capital.
In other news…
US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has vowed to end a wind energy tax credit that, while currently set to expire at the end of this year, last week won approval for reinstatement by US Senate tax writers. The Huffington Post reports that a spokesman for Romney’s Iowa operation told a reporter a Romney government would “allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits.”
Rumours surfaced at the end of last week that Spain was set to cut its subsidies for renewable energy plants at the weekly cabinet meeting in Madrid on Monday. Bloomberg reports that the country’s energy and industry minister flagged a reduction to clean energy aid after his plan to impose taxes on the generators failed to win the support of the rest of the government.
German solar panel installations have more than doubled in the first half of 2012, with about 4.37GW of PV installed to date – more than the government target of 2.5-3.5GW for the whole year. About 1.79GW of panels were added in June as developers rushed to connect plants before an extension of the subsidies ended at the month’s end.