MORE than 400 people have raised close to £3 million in just two weeks to help buy a community wind farm near Ulverston.

It is thought that Mean Moor wind farm is the first in the country to be transferred to community ownership from a commercial developer.

Ethical investment company, Bristol-based Thrive Renewables, has provided £7m towards the overall cost which will be repaid by the new owners.

The wind farm comprises three turbines and is situated across the valley from two turbines at Harlock Hill in south Cumbria, owned by energy co-operative High Winds Community Energy Society,

When developer Infinergy decided to sell the three turbines, High Winds was given first refusal and set about raising the necessary funds.

Thanks to support from Energy4All, a group formed to expand renewable energy co-operatives and Thrive Renewables - Energy Prospects, High Winds and Baywind - were able to raise £2.8 million towards buying the farm. Annette Heslop, director for High Winds and one of those who invested in the farm, said they had wanted the whole site to be community owned.

“The other option was that Mean Moor would be sold to an American company,” she said. “Why shouldn’t the local community own their local energy supply?”

Ms Heslop said the group wanted more investors to get involved with the project, with a view to some of the farm profits being invested into local projects. More than 400 individuals invested, with the minimum investment £500 and the maximum investment capped at £50,000.

Financing from Thrive Renewables enables communities to buy a project from a developer and gives them time to raise the funds themselves. Matthew Clayton, managing director, said: “We see our role as facilitating, by providing the necessary funding and expertise, the transfer of ownership of the project from a commercial owner to the community.”