WORK on Oxfordshire’s first solar farm has begun.

Enough panels to power 1,000 homes for a year are going up on a 30-acre site at Westmill Farm in Watchfield, near Faringdon.

But the race against time is on because the Government is expected to cut back a scheme that gives solar panel owners cash for generating electricity from August 1.

The site is next a wind farm at Watchfield where five 1.3 megawatt turbines, installed in 2008, are already producing enough power for 2,500 homes.

Landowner and eco-farmer Adam Twine, who has leased out the land for the project, said: “We learned of the planning consent on Monday last week and started work on site that day.”

Mr Twine is one of four partners in the scheme along with Blue Energy, Low Carbon Solar of Cirencester and Energy4All.

Shares in the £12m project will be offered by Energy4All, a Cumbria-based family of co-operatives established in 2002 in a bid to get communities involved in green projects.

It is hoped the move will raise £3m, with extra financing from Cheshire-based Blue Energy.

Jackie Reid, spokesman for Low Carbon Solar, said: “No-one knows yet by how much the Government may cut the feed-in tariff, but the farm must be generating by August 1 in order to benefit from current rates.”

Feed-in tariffs were introduced in April 2010 and guarantee minimum payments for electricity generated by wind or sun and extra cash for electricity sold to the National Grid.

A 15-acre solar farm plan for Cornbury Park, Charlbury, was rejected by councillors while Sam Simson’s 4.5 acre plan for land off Milton Road, Shipton-under-Wychwood was approved.

He said: “The problem now is the uncertainty about the feed-in tariff in the future.”