FUNDING of nearly £3.4m has been put towards the development of a huge solar park near Bicester.

Groundworks have started at social enterprise Low Carbon Hub’s first ever ground mount solar park, called Ray Valley Solar, in Arncott.

Oxford City Council agreed last week at its cabinet meeting to commit funding over a lifetime of 22.5 years to support the development of the site which, once completed in the Autumn, is set to generate enough clean electricity to power more than 6,000 homes.

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The council and Low Carbon Hub have agreed to a low interest loan that will provide the solar park with £3,385,200.

The loan terms mean ultimately more money will go towards community benefit from the project and less towards paying off loan debt. 

Oxford City councillor Tom Hayes, cabinet member for green transport and Zero Carbon Oxford, said: “The city council has a decade-long relationship to Low Carbon Hub and we’re thrilled to help fund their 48th renewable energy project. 

"This council has chosen to invest in Low Carbon Hub so much for so long because we believe in community-owned clean energy. 

"Other councils have set up a municipal energy company, but we will continue to support clean energy because we want to keep energy spend locally, reduce our carbon footprint, and generate millions in community benefit through people-powered energy.”

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The energy generated by the 35,900 solar panels will be 19GW of electricity per year and will offset up to 10,002 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.

Once the 95-acre solar park is built, it will be the largest community-owned solar park in the UK.

The council's investment comes from the £10.9m of Government funding secured by the council earlier this year as part of the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme. 

'Final piece of the puzzle'

Along with this loan, Ray Valley has been supported by over £4.5 million of investment into the Community Energy Fund and a loan from Triodos Bank. 

Barbara Hammond, CEO of Low Carbon Hub said: “This funding is the final piece of the puzzle in funding our first ever ground mount solar park and we’re really pleased to once more be working with Oxford City Council on a project to help cut our county’s carbon emissions. 

"We desperately need more renewable energy generation if we are to meet the UK’s zero carbon emission targets and we’re so excited to be making strides towards this goal in Oxfordshire.” 

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