We are looking for projects which can be wholly or partially owned by community members, and which can generate income to go towards a community fund.
All renewable energy projects will be selected on the basis of minimal visual and other environmental impacts. For example, ground-mounted solar will only be on brownfield sites or on low grade agricultural land. Continued agricultural use and biodiversity enhancement will be encouraged. The land can be returned to full agricultural use at the end of the project (typically 25 years).
Yealm Energy Community has so far identified 2 very promising projects in the area with potential for shared ownership: one of 5 MW in Newton Ferrers has been built by Good Energy and we are currently seeking agreement to purchase it from them, and one of 7.3 MW on the Yealmpton/Holbeton border is the subject of a planning application. Each is subject to negotiation of agreements with the landowners and co-developers. These two projects, when added to the existing commercial project at Balls Wood in Brixton will be able to generate the equivalent of the total electricity consumption of all residents in the five parishes, taking up in total just 80 acres of land.
Creacombe Solar Farm
The landowner, Gnaton Farms has just submitted a planning application for Creacombe solar Farm, a 7.3 MW solar farm near Yealmpton.
To support the panning application and view the plans on the South Hams planning portal please click here
Covering a total area of 27 acres, the site is very well screened, encompassing three gently sloping fields surrounded by mature hedgerows so that it can barely be seen from local viewpoints.
The site reflects YCE’s commitment to developing projects on low-grade land, continued agricultural use, and biodiversity enhancement. The grade 3b land will be grazed by sheep under and around the solar panels in autumn and winter.
Ecology and Biodiversity
The land will also be managed to encourage wildlife and biodiversity, with the creation of species-rich wildflower meadows around the panels. Gnaton Farms is a family enterprise which has farmed the land for 42 years and already has an excellent track record on ecology and biodiversity, including sowing many hectares of wildflower meadows and restoring ancient orchards. The farm is part of Natural England’s Higher Level Stewardship scheme and has already given over 55 acres to meadows for bird food and nectar. The biodiversity improvements incorporated into the solar farm will help to build on this good work.
The solar farm also lies within the South Devon B-Line, https://www.buglife.org.uk/campaigns-and-our-work/habitat-projects/helping-create-b-lines one of three pathways in the South of England designed to help conserve our native insect pollinators.
Surplus revenue from operating the solar farm will go into a community benefit fund for local projects to help tackle fuel poverty, support other community energy generation initiatives and promote greater sustainability and environmental benefits for the local community. It is hoped that this could generate a target of £1 million over the 25-year lifetime of the project – making a genuine difference to the future sustainability of the communities in and around Yealmpton.
We will also work with local primary and secondary schools and adult education colleges in the area to promote their understanding of climate change and renewable energy, with resources linked to the National Curriculum.
Over 10% of homes in South Hams are in fuel poverty, and carbon emissions per capita are 17% higher than the average for England. With the community fund from generating our own solar energy, we can help make a big difference locally through projects such as installing solar panels on schools and community buildings, advising people in fuel poverty on energy-efficiency and funding electric-car charging points.
Yealm Community Energy is delighted that these projects are expected to provide opportunities for community investment.
Once planning is approved there will be a Public Share Offer to raise the funds to build the solar farm. Local people will be able to invest from a low minimum stake, typically £50. While the details are yet to be decided, similar projects tend to offer an annual return of 5.5% to 6% over 25 years.
We hope that this project will set a precedent for enabling the local and wider community to share in the ownership of local energy projects in the future.
Newton Downs Farm
This project has been developed by Good Energy, a renewable electricity provider and has been approved by South Hams District Council subject to an agreement that Yealm Community Energy to have an option to buy the asset once it is built (second half of 2016).
The site is not visible from public roads or footpaths and will be used by the farmer for sheep grazing and for sowing varieties of grass seed and wild flowers to encourage pollinators and wildlife.
Once negotiations with Good Energy have been completed we hope to be in a position to make a share offer for local investors (with a low minimum share holding). See the “Invest” section.
To find out more about investment opportunities or ask any other questions about the projects, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.