Published: November 6, 2013
New £1.1m community solar energy farm is opened near Burnham

Burnham-On-Sea's MP Tessa Munt joined fellow local investors at the official opening of a £1.1 million community solar plant at the weekend.

Many of the 150 people who have ploughed their funds into Wedmore Community Power Co-operative joined in the celebrations, held to mark the completion of the one-megawatt power plant.

Their investment has enabled almost 4,000 solar panels to be installed in two paddocks just outside the village during the past six weeks.

The electricity generated is enough to power 55,000 light bulbs or more than 1,100 microwaves.

The majority of shareholders are from the surrounding area, attracted by a lower investment threshold of £250 for local residents and a desire to reduce their community’s carbon footprint.

Tessa told "This is an inspirational project, and an exemplar to other villages in the area. It is a small site but contributes a big chunk of electricity. It is so refreshing to see a community taking the initiative with a project that brings so much benefit to the local area and not shareholders scattered around the world who are only in it for the profit."

"It's not the first time Wedmore has pioneered new sources of energy: it had its own gasworks in 1870 and an electric power company in 1908, long before some local towns and even the City of Wells."

Every year it will save around 450 tonnes of carbon dioxide that would otherwise be produced through burning fossil fuels. Sheep will graze the grass below the solar panels and new hedges of native species will be planted in the coming weeks to help screen the site.

All of the co-operative’s profits will be ploughed back into the community in the form of grants for local organisations and charities.

One of the people behind the project, co-operative secretary Robin Mewes, told "We are delighted to have opened our solar energy plant, enabling our community to reduce its carbon emissions and take control of its energy production, thus becoming more resilient."

Pictured: Vanessa Becker-Hughes, one of the directors of the Wedmore Community Power Co-Op, who cut the ribbon at the launch


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