UK: Big60Million and Foresight Solar Fund close bond on 34 MW community PV


An innovative new financing model has secured the acquisition of 34 MW of solar PV capacity in the U.K. in a deal that will deliver affordable, community-backed solar power to British residents.

Big60Million – which is a community-benefit energy company that offers solar bonds to U.K. communities and private investors – has teamed with institutional finance company Foresight Solar Fund Limited (FSFL) on the joint venture, adding three large-scale solar farms to the Solar Bond scheme.

Proceeds from the Big60Million Solar Bond offer were co-invested with FSFL equity funds to purchase two solar plants in Warwickshire – a 15 MW farm in Atherstone and a 10 MW farm in Southam – as well as a further 9 MW solar farm (Paddock Wood) in the southeast English county of Kent.

These three farms were connected to the national energy grid in March this year, and thus have begun receiving the Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) at the rate of 1.4 ROC/MWh. The Solar Bond scheme invites interested parties to invest in the acquisition of solar farms, with a minimum outlay of £60 ($93) generating a fixed 6% gross return a year for five years.

The involvement of FSFL ensured that all projects were acquired debt-free via the leveraging of equity funds raised in FSFL’s June 2015 placing. FSFL is the majority owner of each solar farm, with this new tranche of investment swelling the company’s solar PV operating portfolio to 287 MW.

"By partnering with Big60Million, the local community, alongside investors in FSFL, have been given the opportunity to benefit from the attractive, low-risk return these solar power assets offer," said FSFL head of solar Ricardo Pineiro. "This innovative partnership of institutional and community finance will act as a template for further co-investment opportunities as well seek to increase the community involvement in solar power generation in the U.K."

Big60Million CEO Toddington Harper added: "The U.K. government is supportive of greater community involvement in local energy generation and conservation, and we’re proud at Big60Million – alongside our partner FSFL – to be at the forefront of this exciting movement."

The Mayor of North Warwickshire – near to where two of the solar farms are located – called the development a triple win for the region. "It offers local people an attractive return when bank interest rates are low; it will generate clean energy, and it will create a nature sanctuary as a resource for our community," said the Mayor and councilor, Ray Sweet.