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M&S seeks to crowdfund solar PV installs for nine stores

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M&S already owns the country's largest rooftop solar installation, a 6.1MW array atop its Castle Donington distribution centre (pictured). Image: M&S.

Marks & Spencer has established a new crowdfunding scheme it hopes will pay for the installation of solar panels on nine of its UK stores.

Yesterday the retailer launched M&S Energy Society with community energy organisation Energy4All and invited M&S customers to invest between £100 and £100,000 in the scheme, offering returns of 5%.

A total of £1.2 million is hoped to be raised before the offer closes on 31 July, however the offer will also close if that sum is fully subscribed.

The receipts of the offer will be used to pay for the installations, and M&S will then purchase any generated power at a pre-determined price for a period of 20 years. Once members of M&S Energy Society have been paid their interest all profits will be invested back into local communities.

Members of the society will decide which causes will receive investment.

Energy4All pre-accredited all nine installations under the previous feed-in tariff regime before its closure on 16 January this year. As a result they will receive more lucrative feed-in tariff payments, further contributing to the scheme’s community benefit programmes.

The purchased energy will also contribute towards M&S’ commitment to derive at least half of the electricity demand of its UK/ROI building operations from small-scale renewable sources by 2020, which last week the retailer revealed itself to be on track.

The proposed systems include:

  • The scheme’s largest install, comprising 860 panels, for Hayle in West Cornwall
  • A 50kW installation for Banbury Gateway
  • A 50kW installation for Cheshire Oaks
  • A 112kW system atop Hempstead Valley
  • 600 solar panels, the scheme’s second-largest, for Cheshunt
  • A 50kW system for Longbridge in West Mindlands
  • A 99kW install at Truro Lemon Quay
  • 385 panels atop Torbay
  • A 50kW install at West Quay Centre

Lydia Hopton, Plan A project manager at M&S, said that the company was excited at being the first retailer to launch a scheme of this kind.

“This project is a great opportunity for customers to invest in green energy and help the environment, while also supporting local community groups,” she added.

The project also received the support of energy minister Lord Bourne, who urged other companies to follow M&S’ path.

“This new initiative from M&S is an excellent example of private enterprise working with its customers to produce clean, green energy and support local community groups,” he said.

This is now M&S’ first experience with solar however. The retailer has proven to be a consistent adopter of on-site renewable generation and last year completed a 6.1MW install atop its Castle Donnington distribution centre, a project which is still thought to be the largest rooftop solar system in the country.

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