West Sussex local energy enterprise completes £5.5million transaction amidst lockdown and launches Corona Crisis Fund.
Leapfrog Finance and Communities for Renewables C.I.C. are delighted to share the news of a successful community re-finance of a 5MW solar farm by Ferry Farm Community Solar Ltd.
Ferry Farm Community Solar, a local energy enterprise which serves the West Sussex communities of Selsey and Sidlesham has completed a £5.5million transaction to bring a 5MW solar array into full community ownership. The solar array has been up and 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.
The transaction was funded by a loan from Leapfrog Bridge Finance. A further opportunity for the community to invest in the enterprise will come later this year.
Surplus income generated by Ferry Farm Community Solar (around £50,000 per year since inception) has been used to support:
– 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.
Immediately following completion of the transaction Ferry Farm Community Solar launched a £40,000 Corona Crisis fund to support local people facing hardship due the outbreak, shut down and likely recession.
Louisa Cilenti, Partner at Lux Nova – legal advisors for the transaction, said: “We are delighted to have supported Leapfrog to finance the acquisition of Ferry Farm Community Solar Project, to enable this FiT-backed 5MW solar park to remain in long-term community ownership and under community management. It is testament to the expertise and commitment of the Leapfrog finance team and the strength of their relationship with community developer and asset manager CfR that acquisition terms could be structured to meet the commercial requirements of Triple Point whilst preserving significant cash surpluses over the life of the project to directly benefit local community initiatives. We continue to be filled with optimism that we will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic with a stronger focus on the value of communities and the enabling role of social finance to advance a bigger societal mission and positive social impact.”
Matt Andrews, Director of Project Finance at Leapfrog Group said: “Leapfrog Bridge Finance is delighted to support another community with its’ transition to a carbon neutral future whilst at the same time generating significant social impact. Working closely with our professional advisors Lux Nova Partners, Johnston Carmichael Chartered Accountants & Green Cat Renewables we were able to complete the funding during a period of intense uncertainty for the country and its communities. The funds already being distributed locally to help combat the impact of the coronavirus demonstrate how local energy enterprises can support their community’s resilience.”
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 expected to generate around £2million to support local community projects over its lifetime.
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+).
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.
About Selsey and Sidlesham
Selsey and Sidlesham lie on the Manhood Peninsula to the east of the Solent. The peninsula is much loved by its residents and visitors. With a population of around 11,000, Selsey is a local centre providing a range of day-to-day services such as healthcare, shopping and education to the adjoining parishes and villages. Sidlesham is a rural parish with a population of 1,000 across 5 hamlets. Selsey and Sidlesham parishes are under Chichester District Council and West Sussex County Council.
The low-lying Manhood Peninsular is particularly vulnerable to climate change. The parishes of Selsey and Sidlesham are home to the UK’s largest open coast realignment scheme which is designated as a nature reserve and managed by the RSPB, who are also custodians of the neighbouring Pagham Harbour Local Nature Reserve.
The local economy is highly reliant on seasonal trade and low pay, low skilled work in agriculture and tourism jobs, as well as residents working in the commutable commercial centres which include Chichester, Portsmouth, Southampton and the Sussex Coast towns.
Like most UK coastal towns Selsey has its challenges with unemployment, access to post 16 training, cost of public transport and links to employment areas. Whilst Chichester District as a whole is one of the least deprived areas in the UK, this hides significant wealth disparity. The North Ward of Selsey contains a pocket of multiple deprivation. This is reflected in the roll at the local Secondary school where a quarter of the school population qualify for Pupil Premium and just below 20% identify as having Special Educational Needs (SEN) compared to the national average of 12%. The percentage of students receiving Free School Meals (FSM) is slightly above national average (14.9% at TAS compared to 14.1% national) but much higher than the rest of West Sussex (8.8%).
The Corona outbreak presents particular challenges for the community:
• 40% of the population are over 65 and there are 3,500 over 70’s supposed to be self- isolating
• Many of the retired population have moved to the area and live away from family, with loneliness and isolation being an issue for those who have subsequently lost partners
• There are 189 people with a diagnosis of dementia
• There are 550 voluntary carers
The area, and Selsey town, has a strong sense of identity and its residents form close communities. There are over 150 active community groups, providing everything from leisure and creative pastimes to support for health, emotional and social needs. Selsey Community Forum holds 46 Forums a year bringing together statutory, charity and commercial partners. Selsey Care Shop offers support to voluntary Carers, people living with dementia, the lonely, bereaved, those in debt and low level mental health needs. This support is given through 400 monthly visitors to the Shop, 21 monthly activities and regular proactive telephone calls.
Selsey Community Forum is coordinating the community’s Covid response, working in partnership with all other agencies. Action so far includes:
• Organised 120 buddies covering every road in town. This is covering Shopping, prescriptions and dog walking amongst other things.
• Set up a communications network via Facebook, phone, email and text.
• Distributed an informative magazine, Senior Selsey News, to 1000 most isolated elderly residents.
• Set up a welfare fund in coordination with Foodbank.
• Helped to coordinate the use of surplus food from Costa and other closing outlets.
• Organised daily phone calls to reassure 150 isolated and vulnerable people.
• Sending weekly reports to Community Warden, Town Council, Medical Practice, District and County Council.