IT’S the £2.5m solar farm funded by 500 investors who are determined to help win the battle against climate change.

Said to be the first scheme of its kind in Hampshire, the communityowned facility taking shape in a field overlooking the Solent is being built by a local co-operative.

After raising an initial £150,000 the team behind the project used bonds and a public share offer to generate the rest of the cash.

Each member contributed an average of £5,000 – and can expect to receive an eight-and-a-half per cent return on their investment.

The 9,372 panels being installed on a 12-acre site off Lower Pennington Lane, Lymington, will generate enough electricity to power 600 homes.

The facility is due to be connected to the National Grid at the end of this month.

Electricity will be sold to Co-op Energy and supplied to homes in the Lymington and Pennington area by Scottish and Southern Energy.

The site is owned by Anthony Woolhouse, who is chairman of West Solent Solar Cooperative (WSSC).

“It’s the realisation of a dream that began a year ago,” he said.

“More than half the people who have invested in the scheme are locals – some of them even live in Lower Pennington Lane.

“Most of them got involved because they believe in local energy being used to supply local households, not trunked halfway across the country.

“We believe this solar farm is perfect.

It’s on a brownfield site in one of the sunniest locations in the UK.”

The share offer was launched at Lymington in March, with investors being invited to contribute between £250 and £20,000.

Mr Woolhouse said: “There was a massive amount of interest in being part of a local large-scale but low impact renewable energy project.

“Other community energy projects across the UK have run similar share offers successfully, so it’s about time there was a scheme in Hampshire.”

Volunteers have planted 1,000 trees to landscape the site, a former gravel pit that was filled in four years ago.

WSSC director Cathy Cook said: “After construction the whole field will be seeded with wild flowers.

Beehives will then be established and sheep brought in to graze the land.”

The facility is being built in partnership with Solarcentury.

Project manager Jason Arnold added: “Every effort will be made during construction to minimise disruption to local residents.”

The solar farm is due to be officially opened on September 14.