A Community Benefit Energy Company created by BELECTRIC UK to design Community Solar Farms.
In early 2014, when BELECTRIC UK was planning a new solar farm near Willersey in the Cotswolds, we met with local people to listen to their views on the project. While many were in favour of solar energy generation in principle, just as many felt that our proposed solar farm might impact upon their neighbourhood and local environment without actually benefitting the local community. And so Big60Million was born, with a specific mission to share the financial, environmental and social benefits of renewable energy projects with local communities.
Who are the “Big60Million”?
Energy supply in the UK is dominated by six large corporations, widely known as the “Big Six”. The Big60Million vision is that, one day, local renewable energy generation will be so widespread that all the UK’s 60 million residents will be able to have a stake in their local energy supply: hence “Big60Million”.
What does Big60Million do?
The Big60Million community benefit energy company plans and develops community solar farms in partnership with BELECTRIC UK, and organises associated community financial, environmental and social programmes. It can call upon the resources of BELECTRIC UK’s 60 staff, and relies upon BELECTRIC’s industry leading technology and expertise for the design, construction, operation, monitoring and maintenance of the solar farms.
Big60Million gives all local residents, companies and community groups the chance to invest in their local solar farm through Big60Million Solar Bonds. These bonds yield an attractive return on investment — far better than conventional savings products — and have a low unit cost, allowing as many people as possible to participate. Investments are secured against solar farm assets.
Less than 5% of land on our solar farms has anything physically attached to it, so we put the rest to good use to enhance the local landscape and biodiversity. For each solar farm, we create a habitat management plan including actions like:
- tree planting to enhance the local landscape
- hedgerow planting to provide “nature corridors”, allowing free movement of wildlife around the countryside
- wildflower planting to provide food and shelter for pollinating insects, birds and ground dwelling mammals
- beehive installation, working with the British Beekeepers Association to support threatened honey bee populations
- nest boxes for declining farmland birds.
We use Big60Million solar farms as a platform to teach local schools and community groups about renewable energy, biodiversity and sustainable values. On some solar farms we organise community growing projects, providing fresh produce for local consumption.