I'm delighted to be supporting Toddington Harper and the team at Greenhouse to launch Big60Million, a company on a mission to properly scale-up community solar schemes by making sure that individuals reap the benefits of having a solar farm in their backyard.
Having grown up in a solar family (his father pioneered some of the very first solar projects in the Middle East where he grew up), Toddington has spent the last 15 years trying to make clean energy work.
But he's now hit on something that could really take-off: a new model to catalyse a revolution in solar across the UK.
As I explore in this latest article posted at 2degrees - one of many I'm producing to support the launch - all of the research points to the fact that people who are involved in the process of either installing their own solar systems, or benefit from solar farms located within their community, begin to value and care about where their energy comes from.
So, Toddington's business removes those pain points (by investing, paying for the infrastructure and replicates that with the significant economies of scale across multiple sites) and gives local people the chance to invest and make money from their local solar farm.
It's a mini-bonds scheme, allowing people to pay £60 for a mini-bond that gets them a stake in a project. They can buy as many mini-bonds as they like. And each bond offers a 6% gross interest return before tax each year for five years, after which they can get their money back or stay in for the longer term.
It's designed to appeal to the masses. As Toddington told me, "How many people have got cash they are happy to lock up for 25 years? We want as many of the country’s 60 million people to buy-in as possible – hence our name."
And it's not just about the cash either. There's a raft of environmental and social benefits on offer too. Because each solar farm uses less than 95% of the land, the company is going to turn the pockets of land into nature reserves and open them up to the local schools to come and learn about clean energy and biodiversity.
It's a great story and I'm sold, having just bought my very own mini-bond in the Paddock Wood Solar Farm which is just up the road from me and one of four sites the business has so far connected to the grid.