Foresight Solar Investment: Cornwall takes innovative community approach to renewable energy

Cornwall Council has granted planning consent for the first of a new generation of solar farms which will deliver a strong community benefit to the people of Cornwall, sending a clear message that communities and energy providers should work together to maximise opportunities in renewable energy.

Cornwall Power, a local developer of renewable energy in the West Country, has gained permission from Cornwall Council’s Planning Department to install a ground-mounted solar farm on carefully selected land owned by the Lanhydrock Estate Company (LEC).  The solar farm could provide South West Water with locally generated renewable energy for its Restormel Water Treatment Works, thus using locally generated renewable electricity to supply water for the population of Cornwall.

As part of the development, Cornwall Power will also be creating a Community Benefit Trust for local residents ensuring significant community gain is delivered over the 25 year term of the project. 

Cornwall Power Chairman, David Fyffe said: "The site provides us with an exemplar model project as it typifies the type of development the Government wished to promote through the introduction of its Feed in Tariff scheme introduced last year.  It’s all about giving power back to the community by triggering small residential and community renewable projects via the community benefit trust.  We have worked very closely with Cornwall Council’s Planning Department and the local community to achieve a solution that benefits everybody.”

Cornwall Power will deliver the project in partnership with Foresight Group, a leading UK solar investor, who will finance the installations from its Foresight Solar VCT fund, its third dedicated solar fund. The fund is targeting community scale projects on the ground and on roofs. Foresight’s other solar funds have invested more than £150 million in operating and construction stage PV assets in Italy and Spain. Jamie Richards, a Partner with Foresight Group explains:

“We chose to work with Cornwall Power because of their professional and sympathetic approach to the environment and the community. They have a large pipeline of similar opportunities which fit well with our investment strategy.  We are experiencing an unprecedented level of interest from potential investors in our Solar VCT and are very pleased to be working with Cornwall Power on this project which delivers the required investment return.”

Commenting on the decision to grant planning permission for the Lanhydrock solar farm, Cornwall Councillor Julian German, portfolio holder for Environment, Climate Change and Waste Management said: 

“The close proximity of the Restormel Water Treatment Works offers planners and the landowner an overwhelming carbon-reduction opportunity, which could enable South West Water to reduce its carbon footprint and enhance its energy security by consuming the total power output of the solar farm.  The welcome addition of a Community Benefit Trust provides the local community with a significant local benefit.”

Cornwall Councillor Carolyn Rule, portfolio holder for Economy and Regeneration said:  “This is an exciting opportunity for Cornwall and I am delighted that a local company is at the forefront of the solar PV industry in Cornwall.”

David Harpur, Renewable Energy Manager for South West Water, said:  “We are of course delighted that our customers and the wider community could benefit from this project.  South West Water is committed to leading on sustainability and specifically addressing the issue of climate change by championing new and innovative energy solutions.”
 
Lanhydrock Estate landowner Andrew Williams commented:  “The Cornwall Power Community Benefit Scheme, over the life of this project, could raise as much as £2m to support local community projects.  In addition, the income provided to each estate by the projects Cornwall Power identifies is designed to facilitate investment by the landowners when addressing their estates’ energy requirements. The fact that Cornwall Power is helping the Estate to manage its renewable transition throughout its portfolio of holdings with the complete range of renewable options, made us comfortable with the fact that we could trust them to deliver.”

Work on the site is expected to begin in spring 2011 and the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group has already been commissioned to create a wildflower meadow on the site as well as introducing bee hives.

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