RENEWABLE energy projects across Oxfordshire are rushing to catch the last rays of light as the sun sets on the Government's feed-in tariff.

Solar farm schemes and hydro power planners had to race to get their projects pre-accredited for subsidies before the deadline of September 30.

Now they have 12 months if they are solar, or 24 for hydro, to get their plants generating and get financial help.

Across Oxfordshire dozens of schools, businesses and community groups are now racing to get their schemes up and running by their deadlines.

One of those is Sustainable Charlbury, a group of villagers who have pre-accredited their seven-hectare solar farm for financial help.

In February they will launch a £3m fundraising bid inviting people to buy anything between £200 and £100,000 worth of shares and make up to £5,000 profit.

The villagers have to raise all that money, build the solar farm and get it generating before their pre-accreditation runs out on September 6, 2016.

Project manager Tim Crisp said he hoped increasingly dramatic weather across UK and the world would help persuade people that climate change was really happening and that renewable energy schemes could help stop irreversible change, especially after the Paris climate talks agreement to try to halt global warming below 2 degrees celcius.

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The 55-year-old, who lives in Charlbury, said: "We are seriously hoping people embrace the whole issue of climate change in much more engaged way.

"Rather than looking for holes in it, we hope people now believe what scientists say."

But the father-of-three added: "You can make money out of our scheme even if you don't believe in climate change: really, you've got to find a reason not to do it."

In November the directors behind a £1.25m hydroelectric power plant scheme in Abingdon had to pull the plug after costs began to spiral.

They were advised that if their plant was not generating by September 2016 they would lose their feed-in tariff which could make the whole thing potentially unprofitable.

But the group behind an almost identical scheme being planned for Sandford-on-Thames just outside Oxford are ploughing ahead: the Sandford Hydro group is pre-accredited and have until September 2017 to get their scheme up and running.

And, despite the fact that Sustainable Charlbury think they will need a minimum of 1,000 investors for their solar farm, they, too, are determined to persevere.

Mr Crisp, who works for Oxford's Low Carbon Hub, said: "This project can only go ahead if we meet the target.

"We will be building in June and July and connecting to the grid by the end of the year."

If it all works out as they hope, the group's solar farm on land owned by the Cornbury Estate will generate enough power – 4.56MW – to power the whole of Charlbury for the next 25 years: 1,400 homes.

And as a registered community benefit scheme, the group also plan to invest £1m of their profits back into the local community.

Mr Crisp said: "I care about the planet and this feels like our way of addressing locally the issue of climate change but also bringing benefit back into the community."

Sustainable Charlbury will officially launch their share offer at a public meeting at Charlbury Memorial Hall on Wednesday, February 17, starting at 8pm.

People will also be able to quiz designers and find out more about the scheme.

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