Transition Town Lewes‘s energy company, Ovesco, is planning to build Britain’s first community-owned solar power station this summer. It’s launching a share issue at Lewes Town Hall on 19 April to raise £306,000 from investors to pay for 544 solar panels on the warehouse roof of the town’s favourite brewery, Harveys.
Ovesco (Ouse Valley Energy Services Company) has registered as an Industrial Provident Society and if it is able to raise the full amount from investment, it aims to be able to offer a 4% return on investment (after two years) and as is also registering as an Enterprise Investment Scheme which offers tax relief. The annual income of around £30,000 will come from the Feed In Tariffs, at a rate guaranteed by the government for 25 years and will also be used to pay off investors’ capital within that time.
It’s a win-win situation, with Harveys able to get free electricity when the sun shines – solar powered beer! – and a small income for Ovesco, which will enable it to continue to develop more renewable energy projects for Lewes and surrounds and to offer the free energy savings advice and promotions that it has been doing for the last three years. Most important of all, it is the first step along the road of Ovesco and TTL’s vision of a future where power is generated and owned locally.
The project had a set back recently with the government announcing that from 1st August it would stop giving the full FIT to schemes over 50 kilowatt hours, (this scheme is 92 kwh), a setback for community renewable schemes. Ovesco and others are attempting to overturn this decision but meanwhile it has decided to go ahead and raise at least £250,000 by 9 May in order to get the scheme installed registered for the full FITs by 1 August.
It hopes to raise all the money locally, in shares from £250 to £20,000, and as of 31st March has pre-launch pledges for £125,000. But given the short timescale it’s sending a call-out to anyone who would like to invest, donate or even underwrite the scheme, to buy us more time to find more investment.