Anna Kucinska
27 January 2015

Baywind Energy Co-op offers shares in the UK's first wind farm owned and run by a co-operative

The wind farm above Pennington near Ulverston in Cumbria, Baywind Energy Co-op, is the UK's first wind farm owned and run by a co-operative in which ordinary local people have always taken the leading role. Baywind believes that its success is due to combining a strong local base with environmental ethics and sound business principles. These principles have seen Baywind paying a good return to members while strongly supporting local environmental initiatives and the growth of the sector.

Over the past 20 years Baywind has welcomed visitors from community groups and official organisations from the UK and around the world. In response to this interest, Baywind founded a not-for-profit social enterprise Energy4All in Barrow in Furness, in 2002, to help other community groups achieve the same for themselves.

Energy4All offers a highly successful combination of industry experience, community involvement, and business acumen providing a package of sector, admin, and financial services to co-ops in return for an annual fee. The Energy4All office is based in Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria with development staff working throughout the UK.

Since then Energy4All has helped create more than a dozen new community energy co-ops across the UK, with a total of 10,000 members and over £30m raised in capital to build the projects. All the established schemes are trading profitably, supporting local environmental activity and paying an annual return to their members for the capital they have put into the projects.

Today the co-op is develping a new project called High Winds. It will consist in replacing the existing machines, which have been operating since 1997, with modern turbines. Despite reducing the number of turbines from 5 to 2, the power output of the site will actually nearly double due to improvements in technology over the past 20 years.

Like Baywind, High Winds will be democratically controlled, with members electing the directors and making decisions on a one-member, one vote basis regardless of how much capital the member may have put into the project. There will be a generous community fund to support environmental work in south Cumbria.

Baywind Co-op and Energy4All are offering people throughout the UK an opportunity to become members of this unique project as it enters its second generation. ‘It’s an exciting project,’ said David Eastlick, Chair of High Winds, ‘Baywind has proved to be a winner with local people for nearly 20 years - I’m sure that High Winds, based on exactly the same principles, will be equally popular, so we are looking forward to welcoming many new members.'

The share offer plans to raise £3.6m. The offer is open to all individuals, organisations, and businesses, to invest between £250 and £100,000 each. To ensure that as many local people as possible can join, a lower minimum shareholding of £100 will apply to residents of South Cumbria. There is also a generous community fund which could benefit by up to £2m over the life of the project to support local environmental and conservation measures.

Projected returns to members before tax, averaged over a 20 year project life, are estimated at 9% per annum. Enterprise Investment Scheme tax relief of up to 30% of the amount invested will be available for those who are eligible. The share offer is open until 16 March 2015.