Solar: the secure future for Swindon

By Karina Sidenius, Marketing Executive, Abundance Generation
Last week Swindon became the first council in the UK to launch a solar bond. Guest blogger Karina Sidenius from Abundance Generation, a 2014 Ashden Award winner, tells us how the council is building a more sustainable town.

Local councils are always looking for ways to provide more for their residents with the money available.

Swindon Borough Council is embarking on an ambitious project of green development which not only benefits the borough but generates a real financial return for residents, too. And it’s not just for one year; it’s for 20.

In the process, it’s going to be setting a precedent for how other councils can do the same.

There are three things Swindon wants to do

Swindon Borough Council wants to build a more sustainable town - its goal is to install and build 200MW of renewable energy capacity by 2020.

It also sees the opportunity to diversify its own investment mix, shifting to opportunities which generate more predictable cash flows to fund council initiatives for the long term.

Plus, it wants the local community to benefit financially from improving the infrastructure of where they live and work.


Here’s how they’re going to do it

The team at Public Power Solutions were the catalyst behind the whole idea, securing planning permission and a grid connection, and also creating the legal framework for the project. PPS is a company wholly owned by the Council who are tasked with making Swindon’s low carbon vision a reality.

Swindon Common Farm Solar is the first project to utilise PPS’s groundbreaking model of public-private partnership. This ground-mounted solar PV project is also the first solar bond issued by a UK council.

This meets goal one – creating a greener, more sustainable town.

Swindon Borough Council is going to invest £3 million of its own money into the solar farm. This meets goal two – producing a diversified, and potentially more predictable revenue stream so that it can deliver the services and projects its residents care about.

People in the local community and across the UK are able to invest alongside the council via our peer-to-peer platform, Abundance – meeting goal three.

They’ll be earning a decent return over the same time frame, plus they’ll be playing an important role in building something real and positive for the town’s future – and by extension for their children, their neighbours and themselves.

That isn’t all.

The CIC in the project’s name stands for Community Interest Company. As a CIC, part of the profits from Swindon Common Farm Solar will always go towards funding social initiatives in the town and surrounding area.

Just the beginning?

Here at Abundance we’re proud to be working with Public Power Solutions and the Council as the financial platform for people to invest in Swindon Commmon Farm Solar CIC. Without all our members who invest, projects like this, that truly work in the interest of the many, couldn’t happen.

Anybody living in the borough will benefit from a council able to deliver the services we all use. Anybody investing will know they have played a part in that, while earning a steady return that lets them plan for their own future too. And the UK becomes a little greener to boot.

With that in mind, it would come as no surprise to see other councils looking into doing the same. We already have a strong solar industry here in the UK and there’s very good potential for the technology to go further.

When others see for themselves how Swindon, its residents and the project’s investors are benefitting, we hope it will spread far and wide. After all, the template, the community, and the sun are already around.

Risk warning

Part or all of your original capital may be at risk and any return on your loan or investment depends on the success of the project. Investments tend to be long term and may not be readily realisable. Estimated rates of return are variable and estimates are no guarantee of actual return. Consider all risks before investing.

Read more about why Abundance Generation won the 2014 Impax Ashden Award for Energy Innovation.