Oxfordshire-based social enterprise to build UK’s largest community-owned solar park


Oxford based social enterprise Low Carbon Hub has purchased the rights to a 19 MW ground mount solar park which, once built, will be the largest community-owned solar park in the UK. The project, called Ray Valley Solar, will generate 18 GWh of clean electricity each year, enough to power over 6,000 homes. 

To finance the project, Low Carbon Hub has reopened its Community Energy Fund and is inviting investment from as little as £100 up to £100,000. Investors in the Fund will be joining over 1,300 people who together have invested £7 million in support of community energy in Oxfordshire. Before the Fund even opened, over £250,00 of investment had been pledged. 

Oxfordshire councils have declared a climate emergency and there are growing calls for a transition to a zero carbon energy system. The Ray Valley Solar project will take Oxfordshire a step closer to achieving this aim, saving approximately 417 tonnes of CO2 being emitted annually and represents a five-fold increase in the annual clean energy generation for Low Carbon Hub’s portfolio of 47 renewable energy projects. 

Planning permission has been secured for the site and is anticipated to comprise 45,000 solar panels with battery storage also approved. 

The park will form part of Project Local Energy Oxfordshire (LEO), one of the most ambitious, wide-ranging, innovative smart grid trials ever conducted in the UK looking at how we can accelerate the transition to an energy system that doesn’t rely on fossil fuels. The park will provide a crucial ‘anchor load’ of clean electricity generation needed to demonstrate the potential of the coordinated use of local generation, storage and demand in decarbonising the energy system. 

On the project, Dr Barbara Hammond, CEO, Low Carbon Hub said: 

“We are so thrilled to be building our first ever ground mount solar park, which will have a significant impact on the amount of green electricity produced in Oxfordshire. We are committed to putting community energy at the heart of the new zero carbon energy system and are so excited to open up the Community Energy Fund for new investment to enable people to own part of this exciting project. We hope lots of people take advantage of the new minimum investment amount of £100.” 

Located near Arncott, three miles south east of Bicester, the site was bought from leading renewable energy investment and asset management company, Low Carbon Limited. Similar in name, similar in ethos, Low Carbon Limited, like Low Carbon Hub is also committed to taking action on climate change. They develop and operate renewable energy at scale and will take on the project management of the Ray Valley Solar project for the Oxfordshire-based social enterprise. 

Dr Hammond went on to say: 

“We’re at the heart of a growing partnership of people and organisations working together for a zero carbon future. We’re delighted to now count Low Carbon among our partners; we share a common goal and ethos in tackling climate change, and we can’t wait for this project to be realised.”

On the partnership and new project, Low Carbon Limited CEO Roy Bedlow said

“Delivering renewable energy at scale is a key Low Carbon objective and we are delighted to partner with Low Carbon Hub to make Oxfordshire’s community energy and smart grid ambitions a reality. 

This is our first subsidy-free solar project and we look forward to our long-term involvement through asset management to maximise the renewable energy output of the site.”