Petersfinger Community Solar Array
WWCE has identified a potential site for a 1-2MW community solar project next to the sewage treatment works in Petersfinger, on the outskirts of Salisbury. The community-owned solar farm would generate renewable energy for the local area and create a biodiversity bank through managing the land around the solar panels for wildlife.
The proposed community farm is located south of the A36 is adjacent to the Wessex Water treatment works on the outskirts of Salisbury and is well hidden from the surrounding areas.
We want to understand what local people think about the idea, especially residents from the local parishes of Alderbury, Britford & Clarendon Park, and address any questions people might have. Please help us by completing our online survey.
Have Your Say
The solar farm will be owned by WWCE and run for the benefit of the local communities. Surplus income (after operating and finance costs) will be re-invested in further community-led carbon reduction and biodiversity initiatives in the local Parishes of Clarendon Park, Britford & Alderbury through the WWCE Community Grant Fund.
The capital to build the solar farm will be raised through a community investment offer, with priority going to local people.
The community solar array
The field has potential for a 1-2MW PV solar array that could produce up to 2,000,000 KWh of low-carbon electricity per year - enough to supply the equivalent of up to 730 houses.
The landowner has offered to donate the field, and surrounding fields amounting to 40 acres, to Wiltshire Wildlife Trust to manage as a nature reserve. The community solar array will help cover the ongoing costs of maintaining the land. The donation of the land is part of the planned retirement village at Petersfinger Farm.
The land around the solar panels will be managed for wildlife to create a biodiversity bank.
Surplus income (after operating and finance costs) will go to WWCE's community grant fund to support new community initiatives in the local parishes of Clarendon Park, Britford and Alderbury which reduce carbon emissions and help wildlife.
The community solar farm is still at feasibility stage. WWCE has secured a Government grant to do a feasibility study. The feasibility study is being carried out by Communities for Renewables CIC. The feasibility work includes looking at the viability of connecting the solar array to the local electricity network, flood risk, developing a biodiversity management plan, landscape impact and financial feasibility. We will update this website with further information as the work progresses.
If the results of the feasibility process are positive, it will progress to a planning application in 2022 and construction in early 2023.
Have Your Say
We would appreciate all feedback, please share the online survey with your local networks. Over the next coming months, residents will have the opportunity to discuss the project in greater detail and ask any questions.
If the community solar farm goes ahead, and once it is ready to build, WWCE will raise the capital to build the solar farm through a community investment offer.
Residents from Alderbury, Britford & Clarendon Park will have priority to invest before it goes national. If you are interested in this opportunity, please complete the online survey or send us an email, we will contact you as soon as the investment opportunity is available. This will not be until late 2022 or 2023!
Community Grant Fund
Surplus funds generated by the solar farm (after operating and finance costs) will be allocated to a community grant fund. The solar farm is expected to generate around £5,000 per year of surplus income. Priority will go to projects in Alderbury, Britford & Clarendon Park that increase biodiversity or reduce carbon emissions. We want to hear your ideas on how you think these funds could be best spent within your community.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is WWCE?
Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy (WWCE) is a not-for-profit community benefit society working to reduce carbon and increase wildlife in Wiltshire. WWCE develops community-owned renewable energy projects that generate clean energy, local benefits through our community grant fund and returns to our community investors. See more on our About Page.
Why is it that the solar farm will be located in Petersfinger?
The current landowner has offered to donate the solar array field, and surrounding fields amounting to nearly 40 acres, to Wiltshire Wildlife Trust to manage as a nature reserve. The community solar array will help cover the ongoing costs of maintaining the land. The donation of the land is part of the planned retirement village at Petersfinger Farm.
It may be possible for the solar array to provide power directly to the sewage treatment works, which would help "green" Salisbury's sewage system.
Who is making money from this scheme?
This project will be owned and run by WWCE, for and on behalf of the local community. In order to generate the community fund proposed, the project will have to cover its operating and finance costs and make a surplus. WWCE is a not-for-profit organisation, meaning that it doesn’t distribute its profits to any private individuals, though we would pay interest on the community investment raised to build the solar array. WWCE is required by its constitution to use its profits to support its community purpose or to re-invest in the organisation.
WWT will also make money from renting the land to WWCE which will be used to manage wildlife.
What are the benefits to WWT?
If the Petersfinger Farm retirement village goes ahead, the current landowner has proposed to donate the fields to Wiltshire Wildlife Trust (WWT), who will be paid an annual rent by the community solar array to help cover the costs of looking after the land for wildlife.
How much will the solar array cost?
The Petersfinger community solar array will need £1.5 - £2million of capital to develop and build it.
What is a community investment offer?
Community share and bond offers have been used to fund community energy and other community-owned assets across the UK. They give people the opportunity to have a say in how the community enterprise is run and offer a fair return on investment. WWCE has raised over £4million in community shares to fund its existing community solar farms, alongside loan finance from Triodos Bank (a Bristol-based ethical bank).
WWCE is currently paying its members 4% share interest per year, with capital being returned over 20 years. A community investment offer to fund the Petersfinger community solar array will not take place until the project has all consents in place and is ready to be built, which may not be for a few years. Returns in community share offers are not guaranteed and capital is at risk.
Where will the money come from to build this project?
The initial work being conducted to develop the project is being funded through the government’s Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF). The construction and operation of the solar farm will be paid for by WWCE through a community investment offer, which will give priority to local people.
How many panels will there be?
We believe there could be up to 5,226 panels however, this will be less if the solar array is only 1MW. The project will be spread over 3-7 acres.
What panels will be used?
WWCE will look to use the most efficient panels possible to maximise the solar generation from the site, and WWCE’s procurement criteria will include ethical supply chain requirements.
Will it have battery storage?
The project will not have battery storage. The energy will either be used directly, or it will go back into the grid.
What about flooding risks?
We have commissioned a flood risk assessment for the site and the solar array will be designed so that any flood vulnerable equipment is above the maximum flood level. By moving the solar array to the north, flood risk can be partially mitigated.
Will the land be managed for wildlife & biodiversity?
Yes, WWT have been offered 40 acres of land at Petersfinger Farm to manage for wildlife and biodiversity. The land is no longer needed for farmland as the holding is too small and the farm yard area is being developed into a retirement village. WWT have offered WWCE the opportunity to develop a community solar array on part of this land. The rental income from the solar array would contribute to the WWTs cost of maintaining the rest of the land for Wildlife. WWCE will rent the land for the solar farm from WWT.
The location of the solar array has been moved to the northern end of the field to allow the southern part to be maintained as a wetland habitat. During the summer months, the land amongst the solar panels will be used for sheep grazing as it is currently.
How much traffic will this cause in the short & long term?
The solar farm will take around 3 months to install. This might cause some temporary additional traffic whilst installation is taking place however it is unlikely that the solar farm, once installed will create any additional traffic.
Will I be able to see the solar panels from the A36 or Britford?
The solar array will not be visible from the A36.
The solar array will be installed to the north of the field to reduce the visible impact to Birtford in the south. We are proposing that willow trees are planted to the south of the array to help screen the solar panels and the sewage treatment works. A landscape architect has been commissioned to produce some photomontages which will be available late January.
Will the proposed solar array result in the loss of agricultural land?
No. The Agricultural Land Classification (ALC) for the site is grade 4 (the most valuable agricultural land is grade 1). Sheep will still be able to graze amongst the panels.
How long will the solar array take to install?
The solar farm will take around 3 months to install.
How long will the solar panels last?
The solar array will be designed to last 30 years after which it will be taken down or replaced with a new solar farm (which would require a new planning consent).
What will the energy produced be used for?
We are looking into whether the solar array could provide green power directly to Salisbury sewage treatment works next door, which would help green Salisbury's sewage system. Otherwise the solar farm will be connection to the local electricity network and help green the local area's electricity supply.
How are funds generated for the community fund?
Funds are generated through the sale of solar generated electricity. After the operating and finance costs of the solar farm are covered, remaining surpluses will be put into the community fund. We expect the community fund to be around £5,000 per year.
What can the community fund be used for?
The funds can applied for by any parish or group from the community as long as the fund is used for projects that reduce carbon emissions and/or improve wildlife in the local communities.
How does the local community access the funds?
The community fund will be managed by WWCE. Applications can be made on WWCE’s website, and the Community Fund Group will select successful applicants several times a year. Priority will go to projects in the local communities of Alderbury, Britford & Clarendon Park.
Are there any links with schools or colleges to use the facility as a research tool?
There are no current links with local educational facilities however, once the solar array has been installed, this could be arranged through WWT or WWCE.
Will there be opportunities for other local areas to take part in similar schemes?
Whilst there are no current plans to create a solar array elsewhere in Salisbury this could be explored in the future if there is a lot of support for another community scheme. The local community grant fund is available for any parish or group to apply for so long as the project will help reduce carbon or increase biodiversity.
Why is the solar farm not bigger?
Due to the size of the site and positioning of the panels, it is unlikely that the solar array could be bigger than designed currently. However, there is nothing to say that if this site is received well by the community of Salisbury, we could explore opportunities elsewhere in the future.
Will there be any tree felling?
There are no trees that will need to be felled on the site. All trees on the boundary of the field will be retained as natural screening. Additional trees will be planted at the south of the field to increase natural screening.
How can I help?
Completing the survey and sharing it with your local contacts is the best way that you can help at the moment. If the project proceeds, there will also be the option to invest in the scheme to help raise funds for the installation.