Merston Farm, Chichester, West Sussex
Merston Farm, Chichester – Community Ownership Sussex
Merston solar farm is one of the few solar farms in the UK to have been built under the former government’s ‘shared-ownership’ framework. Planning consent was granted in March 2015.
Half the solar farm (5MW) is owned and operated by Meadow Blue Community Energy (MBCE). This local group raised over £1.16 million in equity mainly from local investors in a very successful community share offer in November 2015, alongside £5 million in debt. The solar farm was energised in the summer of 2016, and is expected to create a community benefit fund of over £3 million during its operational lifetime. It was shortlisted for the Community Energy England 2016 Community Renewable Energy Project Award.
The other half of the solar farm is now owned and operated as a commercial solar farm by Greencoat Solar. This part of the project was completed in December 2015, and a community fund has been set up for the local parish council, with additional educational benefits shared between North Mundham Primary and Chichester Free Schools.
The two 5MWp solar projects together generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of over 3,000 average homes annually and save an estimated 4,300 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year compared with electricity generated from fossil fuels.
The site was carefully selected as a suitable location in the area for the following reasons:
- The local grid network is one of the few places in the South with remaining grid capacity to accommodate significant renewable generation and will help West Sussex meet CO2 reduction targets.
- Solar irradiance – the light levels around Merston are in the top 5% of the country.
- The site is free from AONB, SSSI, National Park areas, flood risks and is based within relatively flat land.
- Visual impact – the hedges and tree lines surrounding the site provide a natural barrier that screens the nearby residents and community. The surrounding landscape is flat meaning the presence of the solar farm will not be prominent within the wider landscape.
- Good access to the site during construction.