In 2016, we originally advised Leapfrog Bridge Finance Limited on their bridge loan, which enabled a “community interest company” (Verdant Community Energy CIC) to own two adjacent utility scale solar parks.
This was the UK’s largest community solar project at the time (9.3MW including a shared grid connection arrangement with an adjacent commercial solar park). The 2016 financing was an innovative 100% debt (0% equity) bridging loan to enable the acquisition of Verdant Community Energy CIC, by community-focused developer and asset manager Communities for Renewables (CfR), from Gamma Energy.
In December 2017, we then advised Leapfrog on the refinancing and restructuring of the debt, with Leapfrog’s facility being repaid in part by Triodos Bank (as incoming senior lender) with the remaining Leapfrog debt restructured as mezzanine debt.
Finally, in 2018, an innovative (and largest at the time) 18-year community investment bond offer (circa £4 million with 5% inflation linked bonds) was launched to local retail investors, underwritten by Triodos Bank and Big Society Capital. The result was to refinance Leapfrog in full.
Our role was to conduct the full legal due diligence on the project, and we prepared and negotiated the finance documentation throughout the various iterations of the project from 2016 until 2018. We ensured the community-focused approach was maintained at all times (across the senior, mezzanine and shareholder documentation) to guarantee surplus cashflows for the local community.
The projects are innovative in that they have a guaranteed return for the local community, ahead of equity distributions, and the potential to generate approximately £3 million of income for local community organisations and projects over the next 20 years, an achievement all parties involved can be proud of – thanks primarily to the vision and commitment of everyone involved who made this project happen, and the power of the sun!
A link to Leapfrog’s website is here: www.pureleapfrog.org