Thrings completes sale of Wroughton Airfield Solar Park

Wroughton Airfield Solar Park

Leading commercial law firm Thrings has completed the sale of Wroughton Airfield Solar Park in a deal concerning one of the largest solar farms in the UK.

Work is already underway to build the 165-acre project on the former RAF airfield in Wiltshire after the scheme was sold to the UK arm of the global solar energy company, BELECTRIC UK, for an undisclosed sum.

Wroughton Airfield Solar Park is a joint venture between Public Power Solutions (PPS) – a provider of innovative sustainable waste and power solutions and a wholly-owned company of Swindon Borough Council – and the Science Museum Group, which owns the site.

Once completed in March 2016 and connected to the national grid, the solar farm will have an installed capacity of at least 41MW of energy – enough to power the equivalent of more than 12,000 typical homes.

Under the terms of the transaction, local residents will have the opportunity to invest in the scheme through a community bond offer set up by the new owners. BELECTRIC UK will also make an annual contribution to a local community fund, linked to the final installed capacity.

Meanwhile, income will be used by the Science Museum Group to help continue its work conserving the objects in its collections which are stored on the site and are of significant cultural heritage.

The transaction was led by Jonathan Payne, senior partner at Thrings, who provided strategic and corporate advice to PPS. He was supported by renewables expert, Catherine Strickland, who advised on the original land option, with advice on strategic land and property matters being provided by fellow associate solicitor, Iain Mason.

BELECTRIC UK was represented by Burges Salmon, while CMS Cameron McKenna acted on behalf of the Science Museum Group.

Jonathan Payne said: “Thrings is delighted to have advised PPS during the course of this transaction, in particular organising contract transfers, gaining landowner consent, negotiating cable agreements and dealing with matters relating to community benefit trusts.

“The Wroughton Airfield Solar Park project has received terrific support from the local community from the outset, and the deal undoubtedly represents a positive outcome for PPS, the Science Museum Group, BELECTRIC UK and residents and businesses in Wiltshire.”

James Owen, commercial director at PPS, said: “The UK has a binding EU target to generate 15 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Swindon also has an ambitious target to generate 200MW from renewables by 2020. This project will make a very important contribution to both local and national targets, and has enjoyed outstanding support from the community throughout the planning process.”

Catherine Strickland added: “While there remains a degree of uncertainty around subsidies for renewable electricity generators, there is still a high level of support for community-led solar energy projects.

“Solar projects can be robust investments, but it is vital developers and landowners understand all the issues involved in getting a solar farm up and running and seek advice and guidance on the many legal and financial complexities.”

Thrings has extensive expertise in advising both landowners and commercial developers in the renewable energy sector. Last year the firm negotiated lease terms on behalf of the owners of a 230-acre farm in Oxfordshire for the development of what was then the UK’s largest solar farm called Landmead Solar Farm (also constructed by BELECTRIC UK). It has also recently advised clients on two separate 100-acre plus solar farm projects in Wiltshire.