Our partner and member of the Mongoose family, Chelwood Community Energy, successfully raised nearly 2.5 million pounds in just over 3 months last summer. The moneyÂ 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 to Chelwood, a village ofÂ around 150 residents,Â located approximately eight miles south of Bristol and 10 miles west of Bath in the Chew Valley.
The arrayÂ went live in the late afternoon on 10 December 2015 and has been fully and continuously operational since then. To date the total output of the site has been approximately 600,000 kWh, roughly equivalent to the electricity demand of 600 homes over the same period. Â This is in spite of the sun being at its weakest and daylight being the shortest at this time of year. We couldnâ€™t be happier.
The site needs polishing but looks great. There is still work to do on the site such as taking down the signs of construction activity and removing and restoring land over which the temporary track-way passed. We will also be building the final vehicle access path. All this will take place over the next few weeks, as the weather hopefully improves.
Landscaping adjacent to the solar farm and seeding of the ground inside the perimeter as established in the Biodiversity Management Plan will also start whenÂ the weather gets better. We are excited about picking an expert partner in this area and start implementing our management plan as soon as possible. The plan was developed by Enims and includes the provision of habitats for protected species, such as great crested newts and bats. It also includes a relaxed cutting regime of on-site hedgerows to provide a better nesting habitat for birds and hopefully even dormice.
One of the (many) nice things about Chelwood is that the site is just outside the village and future income ought to make a real difference to the community. Over the 25 year life of the project the Chelwood solar scheme is expected to contribute over Â£1.2 million into local projects. An initial Â£50,000 will be released very soon to the Chelwood Community Benefit Fund.