COUNCILS from as far away as Lancashire and Essex have invested in a takeover bid at the 61 megawatt Swindon Solar Farm at Wroughton Airfield

The farm, built by the Science Museum Group and Swindon-based Public Power Solutions and previously owned by WELink Energy, has been sold to investment management firm Rockfire Capital.

The expansive site is expected to generate almost 60 gigawatt-hours of electricity each year.

When it was built it was claimed it would provide 41 megawatts of renewable electricity to 12,000 Swindon residents as well as a community benefit to the residents of Wroughton thought to be in the region of £40,000 per year.

However the recent sale sees a 15 year power purchase deal agreed with an as yet unnamed bank – said by industry insiders to be HSBC – which calls into question the extent to which those local benefits will continue.

Councils in Warrington, Newham and Thurrock have also invested in the takeover bid, attracted by promised returns of 6 per cent – a move that could be seen as precarious given the changes to solar sector subsidies announced recently.

The airfield is also home to a smaller community solar farm launched last year at a cost of £4.8 million.

It was the first solar farm in the UK to invite people to invest directly through council solar bonds.

The initiative was so successful that it closed a month early, at the end of May 2016.

At the time it was said 65 per cent of the distributable profits from the project would go towards funding local community initiatives, with the remaining 35 per cent going back to Swindon Borough Council.

The community solar farm is not expected to be affected by the sale of the larger neighbouring site.