THE construction of a huge solar park which will power thousands of homes in Oxfordshire is set to be completed this autumn.

Oxfordshire-based social enterprise Low Carbon Hub has signed the construction contract with Low Carbon Limited for Ray Valley Solar, a 19.2 MW ground mount solar park in Arncott, near Bicester.

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Once built, it will be the largest community-owned solar park in the UK.

Covering a 95-acre site, the 35,900 solar panels will generate around 19GW of clean electricity per year, enough to power more than 6,000 homes.

The county has a target to reduce its carbon emissions by 50 per cent over the next nine years. To meet this goal, renewable energy capacity needs to be increased six-fold.

The Ray Valley Solar project will take Oxfordshire a step closer to achieving this aim, saving around 4,200 tonnes of CO2 being emitted yearly.

With battery storage also approved, the project build will be carried out by European contractor, Engie Fabricom and managed by Low Carbon Limited.

Tom Heel, business development director at Low Carbon Hub, said: “Ray Valley Solar is a hugely exciting project to have in the county.

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"As well as providing the backbone for our Project LEO smart grid trials, we hope it will help build partnerships with local energy users to keep energy spend within the county and make many more projects like this viable.

"I think this project is a really good reason to be optimistic about the part ground mount solar can play in meeting our 2030 carbon targets.”

Ray Valley Solar will form part of Project Local Energy Oxfordshire (LEO) a smart grid trial looking at how to transition quickly to an energy system that does not rely on fossil fuels.

To finance the project, Low Carbon Hub reopened its Community Energy Fund in November and has met the £3 million target after extending the target twice due to overwhelming support.

Investors in the Fund will be joining more than 1,300 people who together have invested £7 million in support of community energy in Oxfordshire.

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Dr Barbara Hammond, CEO of Low Carbon Hub said: “We are so thrilled to have completed this major step toward the development of Ray Valley Solar. In the Low Carbon Hub’s 10th year of existence this project is a testament to the coming together of the community, local authorities, and partner organisations to develop a project that 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 have received such tremendous support so far.”

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