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Southill Community Energy

Who benefits

Southill Community Energy's purpose is both to generate electricity from renewable sources, to reduce energy demand, and to invest in other projects that will reduce the community’s carbon emissions.

Renewable energy generation

The ground-mounted solar farm is expected to have a capacity of 4.56 MW. This is forcast to supply sufficient electricity for the equivalent of around 1,100 typical homes, around three-quarters of the total in the three nearby communities. It is expected to generate around 4414 MWh of electricity each year. The panels are estimated to save around 2372 tonnes of CO2 a year over the 25-year lifetime of the project.

Increasing biodiversity

The landowner has agreed to allow SCE to use the remainder of the field to enhance the landscape, where SCE will sow a five-acre wildflower meadow and plant clumps of trees, mainly fruit trees. It is intended that sheep will be used to graze the field, including the ground under the panels. The existing hedge is already undergoing renewal as another of the terms of the projects planning consent.

SCE are being advised by Dr Guy Parker, who is the UK’s leading solar ecologist. There are two Sites of Scientific Special Interest nearby and the Southill Community Energy site will act as a link between the two areas creating an important wildlife corridor.

The community

Consistent with its aims of helping the community to reduce its carbon emissions overall, as part of its planning application SCE volunteered significant community benefit, including allocation of funds to specific projects. Three of which are described below.

Charlbury Community Centre

Up to £100,000 will be given to the Charlbury Community Centre which will be under construction during 2016 and will house a new library, sports hall, youth room and café. SCE funds will be used to reduce the energy demand of the building to ensure that the space is warm in winter, cool in summer, has excellent indoor air quality and benefi ts from low energy bills. The SCE grant will cover paying for a post-occupancy evaluation which will check that the community centre building performs in use as it was designed to do.

Corner House

Up to £100,000 will be given to the Corner House that currently houses Charlbury’s small library and meeting rooms. Once the library has moved to the new building, the Corner House will be extensively refurbished and re-established with new uses and users, including an office for the town clerk. SCE’s funds will be used to ensure that the building is refurbished to the best energy performance standard possible and used as an exemplar to illustrate techniques and outcomes as an educational tool for Oxfordshire residents and beyond.

Community Fund

The third pre-agreed beneficiary of the community fund after Year 2 will be the Cotswold Conservation Board to whom £15,000 or 25% of the community benefit (whichever is the least) will go for further landscape enhancement. In subsequent years, the remaining community benefit will be allocated to a dedicated community fund that will be used to award grants or provide loans to projects which will further reduce the carbon emissions of the local area. SCE expect to contribute around £750,000 in today’s money in community benefit over the lifetime of the project  depending on the cash available.

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