Chelwood Community Energy successfully raised nearly 2.5 million pounds in just over 3 months in the summer of 2015. The money raised was successfully used to install the Chelwood Solar Farm, a 5MW ground-mounted solar array. The array is built on 22 acres of farmland near Chelwood, a village of around 150 residents, located approximately eight miles south of Bristol and 10 miles west of Bath in the Chew Valley.
The scheme has the overwhelming support of the community and is sensitively sited on low grade agricultural land with no adverse amenity or visual impact. It is expected to generate 4,844MWh of renewable electricity each year – enough to power approximately 1,160 average UK homes
As well as providing clean electricity and producing almost zero carbon emissions in operation, solar PV installations provide excellent opportunities for enhancing biodiversity. The site prior to the installation of the solar array was considered to be of low ecological value. However, our biodiversity management plan offers opportunities to deliver ecological and wider biodiversity benefits. Our goal is to protect animal habitats on, and immediately adjacent to, the site for the benefit of protected species, such as great crested newts and bats.
The project became operational in December 2015, and is now exporting electricity to the grid. By June 2018 the site had generated about 11,000MWh of clean, green energy and received an income of over £1,228,000.
One of the key aspects of the development is that it is reversible and will be removed from the site after 25 years, at the end of its life. When the solar scheme is decommissioned, the piles can be easily removed from the ground allowing the site to return to its previous form, if desired. Its agricultural value and potential will not have been diminished as a result of its use as a solar farm, and its biodiversity and habitat richness will have been enhanced.