Refinance transaction completed amidst lockdown
A £5.5million refinance transaction has bought our solar farm into full community ownership and enabled the Corona Crisis Fund to be launched.
Despite the lockdown and turmoil in the global financial markets, Ferry Farm Community Solar was able to complete the transaction on Friday 27th March 2020. The transaction, which fulfills part of our long-term finance strategy, was funded by a loan from Leapfrog Bridge Finance. It brings our solar farm into full community ownership following our share offer which raised £300,000 in 2017. There will be a further opportunity for people to get involved and invest in the enterprise later this year.
Completing the transaction enabled Ferry Farm Community Solar to mobilise a £40,000 Corona Crisis Fund to support organisations helping those in the local community facing hardship due to the Corona outbreak and shut down.
The Ferry Farm community solar array has been running since 2016 and generates enough clean energy to power approximately 1,300 homes per year. Ferry Farm Community Solar is supported by Communities for Renewables CIC who also put together and managed the recent transaction.
The enterprise has a history of supporting the local community, with surplus income generated by Ferry Farm Community Solar (around £40,000 per year since inception) used to support a variety of initiatives including:
· An energy and fuel poverty advice service, helping individuals and families living in fuel poverty reduce their energy spend, maintain a healthy living environment in their homes, deal with energy debts and access energy-related benefit payments.
· A community grant fund, supporting local organisations and projects in Selsey and Sidlesham managed by Selsey Community Forum.
· Helping local community buildings fit energy efficiency measures.
Ben Cooper, Founding Director at Ferry Farm Community Solar, commented: “We have been fortunate enough to have bought this project back into community ownership at what has been an extremely challenging time to secure new funding. Therefore it seems only fair that we should share the success and enable the enterprise to fulfil its remit as a community benefit society. We hope that the emergency fund will provide much needed local support to those most in need over the coming weeks or months, in a bid to offer some normality and security during this very uncertain period.”
Tom Cosgrove, of Communities for Renewables CIC, who managed the transaction for Ferry Farm Community Solar said: ‘behind the scenes a huge amount of work goes into a transaction like this from the borrower, funder and the advisory team. It has taken us 6 months to get through the finance process and several months of negotiations prior to that. To complete the transaction in the midst of the lock down is a credit to all parties and shows how important it was to everyone to get it done and enable the enterprise to mobilise the Corona Crisis Fund.’
About Ferry Farm Community Solar Ltd
Ferry Farm Community Solar Ltd is a not-for-profit community energy enterprise which serves the communities of Selsey and Sidlesham in West Sussex. It was set up with the support of Communities for Renewables CIC to manage the community involvement in a 5MW solar array at Ferry Farm on the outskirts of Selsey. The society is governed by a board of volunteer directors and owned by its members (of which there are currently around 100) who invested in a community share offer when the society was first set up. These members have a 1 member 1 vote say in AGM decisions and have been paid 6% per year share interest. However, as a community benefit society, Ferry Farm Community Solar operates primarily for the benefit of the local community rather than its members. The enterprise is expected to generate around £2million to support local community projects over its lifetime.
About Communities for Renewables
Communities for Renewables CIC (CfR) is a community interest company which helps communities across the UK to set up local energy enterprises and works with them to develop, finance and manage their own renewable energy generation.
Since setting up in 2012, CfR has worked with local energy enterprises in over 30 localities from villages to cities to help deliver over 35MW of community solar from school roofs to one of the largest community solar farms in the UK. CfR has supported the financing of community solar projects with a capital value of £56million and our company and asset management team looks after 50MWp of community solar across 7 localities. Over their operational lives, these projects are projected to generate around £20million of surplus income to support community projects in their localities.
CfR’s contribution to leading innovation in the community energy sector has been recognised through CfR winning the 2018 Community Energy England (CEE) Community Energy Champion and Young Community Energy Champion awards and being short-listed for CEE community energy finance award, 2018 and 2019 Renewable Energy Association awards and 2020 Natwest SE100 social enterprise awards.
The Leapfrog Group is dedicated to enabling positive social, environmental and financial impact for UK communities by facilitating their participation in a low-carbon energy system.
Our not-for-profit organisation comprises: 1. Pure Leapfrog (UK Charity#1112249), providing access for communities wishing to benefit from low-carbon systems (including legal templates, pro bono technical advice, social impact tools etc.) and serves as an ‘incubator’ working with communities on innovative models for their engagement in and benefit from the energy system.
2. Leapfrog Finance, which is our social and environmental impact investment arm. Leapfrog Finance operates a revolving short-term (6-12 months) bridge finance facility, enabling community organisations to install and/or acquire low-carbon energy systems. Projects benefiting from this facility are overlooked by traditional finance. Importantly, Leapfrog Finance only lends to projects combining renewable energy assets with strict social impact criteria. This is how we ensure that, while we are involved for a short time at the early-stage of a project, our contribution generates positive environmental and social impact for the community through the lifetime of the project (20 years+).