Solar farm could raise £1m for community projects

A community-run solar farm could inject up to £40,000 each year into good causes and projects.

Forward-thinking green plans could see farmland on the outskirts of Harrold transformed with solar panels and the energy generated would be sold back to the National Grid.

The proposal, which would cover 31 acres of low quality agricultural land, is being drawn up by a small volunteer team of villagers who have come together to create a community benefit society called HARE - Harrold Renewable Energy.

The ‘discreet’ solar farm, which is expected to cost £5 million to get up and running, would generate enough energy to serve 1,400 homes and would be screened by hedging and wild flowers. There would also be a 1.9-metre high fence around the site, constructed with wooden posts and wire.

If granted planning permission - an application for which is expected to be submitted in January - the group will invite local investors through a shares scheme, which is predicted to yield a seven per cent return.

Planning permission would cover a 25-year period and during that time the money-spinning scheme is expected to generate more than £1 million for community projects.

How the money is spent will be decided by a specially formed and independent charitable trust.

Chairman of HARE Mark Payne said: “It far exceeds anything else the village does in terms of raising money through various charity events that are run. It is quite a big chunk of money.”

Although there has been some opposition to the plan, Mark said: “To be fair I think there is a lot of ‘don’t knows’.

“We did a poll which covered just short of 100 houses in the village and that was six to one in favour.

“We are local people, there are six directors so far, and we are just doing this because we live here, we love the village and we just want to make more of it.”

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