Mendip Renewables, a community benefit society which owns and operates a 5 MW solar farm in Somerset, is looking to raise £1.8 million through a bond issue. The investment will enable contributions into a community benefit fund which will benefit local projects in the area.
The solar farm, Whitelake Solar, was built in autumn 2015 on land belonging to Bagborough Farm and Lower Easton Farm near the mid-Somerset village of Pylle. Bagborough Farm is the home of the award-winning cheese producer, White Lake Cheese.
In its first two years, the solar farm has generated over 10,000,000 kWh of carbon-free solar electricity, enough to power the equivalent of around 1,290 homes. It is managed by local firm Green Nation.
Mendip Renewables is one of the largest community solar companies in Somerset, and has launched one of Somerset's biggest community bond offers. To do so, it has teamed up with Triodos Bank, Europe's leading sustainable bank which has a UK head office based in Bristol.
The bonds pay an initial interest rate of 5% a year, which will rise every year with inflation. The bonds will be redeemed in instalments over 17 years and can be bought on Triodos' new crowdfunding platform. The bonds are eligible to be held in an Innovative Finance ISA which means interest received will be tax free.
Over the next 23 years, Mendip expects to generate around £1.4 million surplus after paying operating expenses and finance costs. The surplus will be used to support local charities. The first such beneficiary is local charity Key4life, which will receive an initial £25,000 to provide employment support to 20 young men aged 18-26 from Somerset who are at risk of going to prison.
Jonathan Thompson, director of Mendip Renewables, said: "By supporting our solar scheme, investors not only enable us to create local, renewable energy, but can also be assured that their contribution is going directly to the individuals and organisations that need it most in our local community.
"Solar is a great, reliable technology, and our job is to make sure the solar farm continues to operate successfully for years to come, earning money to pay back investors and help the community.
"Triodos Bank is a natural partner for us as they combine sophisticated finance skills with a commitment to renewable energy and to business as a means of benefiting the community, and a strong presence in the West Country. In fact, this is a great Somerset story: a solar farm in Pylle, managed by a team in Stratton-on-the-Fosse, works with a team in Bristol to raise finance, produces clean energy in Somerset and contributes money to a Somerset charity that helps young local men."
Eva Hamilton MBE, Founder and CEO of charity Key4Life, said: "Since launching Key4Life five years ago in Somerset, it has become one of the most exciting and life-changing charities working with young offenders and those at risk of offending. Our aim is to continue to help to turn around the lives of some of the most disaffected young men across Somerset, while making our communities safer. Our last preventative programme saw 73% of participants in sustained employment and meaningful occupation and this bond will unlock vital funds for a further preventative programme in 2018."
Research from Triodos Bank reveals the growing appetite for crowdfunding among savers, particularly in the South West. A quarter of savers (26%) nationally think that crowdfunding is becoming an increasingly attractive option to invest, rising to a third (32%) in the South West - the second highest of all UK regions.
Triodos recently became the first bank to launch a crowdfunding platform. It offers a range of crowdfunding opportunities enabling people to invest directly in equity or bonds issued by organisations delivering positive social and environmental impacts. A third (36%) of savers in the UK say they would be more willing to trust a crowdfunding site if it was run by a bank or building society.
Triodos Bank already has an excellent track record in raising finance for social and environmental organisations and in the last 15 years has raised more than £130 million to fund over 50 impact projects. In 2003, Triodos successfully raised the first charity bond in the UK for Golden Lane Housing, one of the UK's leading supported housing landlords for people with a learning disability. In 2013, a further £10 million was raised including a refinancing of the 2003 bond where over 40 per cent of bondholders re-invested.
Dan Hird, Head of Corporate Finance at Triodos Bank, said: "To tackle the big issues we face today we need to inspire investors to support progressive and pioneering businesses. It aligns with our mission at Triodos Bank to make money work for positive social, environmental and cultural change."
For more information and to register interest and receive alerts each time a new offer goes live, visit www.triodoscrowdfunding.co.uk.
An investment in Mendip Renewables' bonds is not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. Mendip Renewables' ability to pay the interest and repay the bonds is not guaranteed and is dependent on the continued success of its business model. Mendip Renewables' bonds are not listed on a recognised investment exchange so investors should be prepared to hold the bonds for their full term.
Notes to Editors
 Research conducted by Opinium Research on behalf of Triodos Bank, 9th to 12th February 2018, among 2,002 nationally representative UK adults (aged 18+).
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Key4life was set up in 2012 to reduce the re-offending rate of young prisoners through a programme of mentoring during and after a prison sentence, and by setting up job placements following release from prison. To date only 14% of Key4life participants have re-offended - 4 times less than the national average of 64% one year post release. In 2015 Key4life launched its first 'At Risk' programme targeted at young people who have not been sent to prison but are considered to be likely to end up in prison if their life is not turned around. The programme involves mentoring and training to unlock and change negative behaviours and to make young male adults more employable, as well as work placements with local employers. www.key4life.org.uk.
About Triodos Bank
Triodos Bank is a global pioneer in sustainable banking using the power of finance to invest in projects that are good for people and the planet. Triodos uses its €13.5 billion (2016) in assets to create social, environmental and cultural value in a transparent and sustainable way.
With UK operations based in Bristol, Triodos Bank has branches in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Germany and an agency in France. Globally, Triodos Bank has microfinance projects in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, and is a founding member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV), a worldwide network of 43 banks seeking to transform finance into a vehicle of positive influence.
Triodos Bank NV (incorporated under the laws of the Netherlands with limited liability, registered in England and Wales BR3012). Authorised by the Dutch Central Bank and subject to limited regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority. Details about the extent of our regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority are available from us on request. Firm reference number 183366.
Investments offered on the crowdfunding platform are not readily realisable, which means that they may be difficult to sell and you may not get back the full amount invested. Investments are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) and your capital is at risk and returns are not guaranteed. Repayment of capital and interest or payment of dividends will be dependent on the success of the organisation's business model and past performance isn't a reliable indicator of future performance. You should always read the offer document in full before deciding whether or not to invest as it will cover risks specific to an individual investment. You can read more about the general risks associated with making these types of investments here. If you are unsure if any of these investments are right for you, you should contact an Independent Financial Adviser.