Europe’s largest electricity generating waterwheel makes a splash at historic National Trust beauty spot

Water power has returned to a historic beauty spot that the National Trust looks after in Wales this week, following the restoration of Europe’s largest electricity generating waterwheel.

Watch BBC One’s Countryfile this Sunday from 6.30pm to see the big switch-on.

Aberdulais Tin Works and Waterfall, South Wales (National Trust / Paul Harris)

Aberdulais Tin Works and Waterfall, South Wales (National Trust / Paul Harris)

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Making waves in energy generation: National Trust powers mansion with Britain’s biggest marine source heat pump

A major milestone will be passed today with the completion of the UK’s largest marine source heat pump, off the North Wales coast, to provide all of the power needed to heat the National Trust’s breath-taking Plas Newydd mansion.

The project is the first of five schemes to be completed in a £3.5m pilot phase of the charity’s Renewable Energy Investment Programme, which was launched last year in partnership with the 100% renewable electricity supplier Good Energy.

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National Trust enters renewable energy trading business

A hydro scheme on the side of Snowdon has been switched on as a new trading company set up by the National Trust begins to harness the power it generates, to help fund conservation.

Snowdon hydro weir (credit: National Trust/John Millar)

Snowdon hydro weir (credit: National Trust/John Millar)

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UK charities and landowners come together to set up new carbon cutting network

Some of the UK’s largest charities and landowners are acting together to fight the impact of climate change and rising energy costs in a new carbon-cutting network, created by the National Trust and the sustainable energy charity, Ashden.

Plas-Newydd-50kw-with-orchid[1]

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Local power in wind farm planning is step in the right direction

This week’s announcement by government that local people are to get a stronger voice over planning decisions on wind farms is an important step in the right direction.

We have long advocated the need for a robust planning system that values the opinions of local people and gives them a say on what type of developments they want and need for their own communities. And this move by government towards engaging and empowering communities in decisions around renewable technology is really important.

View along the Whitehaven coast, Cumbria towards wind turbines ©National Trust Images/Joe Cornish

View along the Whitehaven coast, Cumbria towards wind turbines ©National Trust Images/Joe Cornish

The National Trust believes in the need to grow cleaner, greener energy to tackle the damaging effects of fossil fuels on our environment and wellbeing. That is why we have pledged to generate 50 per cent of our energy from renewables, including biomass, solar and hydro technologies, by 2020 . It is also why it is important that this move does not signal a major backward step in the government’s commitment to expanding renewables. Fewer renewables to be replaced by any anticipated bonanza in fracked shale gas would be a serious blow to the Coalition’s low carbon credibility and do nothing to help us all tackle climate change.

We also believe there is a place for well-sited, well-designed wind technology as part of a mix of renewable energy schemes, but that this should not be at any cost.

So we welcome the communities and local government minister Eric Pickles’ statement this week, in which he says: “Meeting our energy goals should not be used to justify the wrong development in the wrong location.” And also his strong support for clear policies in local plans which will ensure that “impacts from wind farms developments, including cumulative landscape and visual impact, are addressed satisfactorily.”

As a leading conservation organisation, we have a duty to protect beautiful places for ever, for everyone and believe that great care needs to be taken in the siting of any renewable technology, wind included, to ensure that the special character of our most sensitive places and landscapes is not compromised.

Long overdue is a national debate and then clear plan – organised by regions – which aims to set out where large scale renewable technologies could be located. This would take so much of the understandable heat out of the current situation where scattergun and speculative approaches to, for example, wind farm development are creating incessant pressures on some local landscape and their communities. The best development proposals engage local people early and help them take part proactively in the what, where and how of any major interventions.

While this week’s announcement has prompted concerns that higher incentives from wind farm developers to communities might lead to distorted planning decisions – and it is important that the government ensures this does not happen – there is a need to recognise the benefits that can be gained from energy providers working with local people on developing models for sharing the dividends of local, community renewables.

We support the principle of local energy tariffs, where communities which host schemes can benefit from access to cleaner, less costly heat and power. Our new energy partner, Good Energy , is already a pioneer in this approach, and we are working with them in exploring how our new hydro schemes, for example at Hafod y Llan in Snowdonia , might embrace this concept of local, mutual advantage.

By Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprises Director

National Trust invests £3.5m to put clean energy at the heart of conservation

An ambitious plan to provide clean energy to 43 of its historic properties was launched today by the National Trust in conjunction with green electricity supplier Good Energy.

The Trust will invest nearly £3.5 million in five pilot projects, including hydro, biomass and heat pumps, during 2013/14.

If the pilot is successful, the Trust expects to spend ten times that sum in a programme that will see it generate 50 per cent of its energy from renewable sources and halve its fossil fuel consumption by 2020.

This will enable it to reduce its energy costs by more than £4 million per annum, releasing more money for the charity’s conservation work.

The National Trust’s four million members will also be able to support the programme by signing up for renewable electricity with the charity’s energy partner, Good Energy. The company will pay the Trust £40 per year for each new customer signing up to its dual fuel tariff via the National Trust.

If 5 per cent of member households adopted the tariff it would raise £3.8 million for investment in a low carbon future and see 95,000 households powered by clean, green renewably sourced electricity.

 Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprises Director at National Trust, said:

“Through our work we show that renewable technologies can be made to work in some of the country’s most sensitive landscapes and historic environments.”

“Like householders everywhere we are facing rising energy bills. We spend more than £6 million each year heating and powering the places in our care.”

“By investing in renewable energy production we can reduce our energy bills and invest more in vital conservation work around the country. It will put renewable energy at the heart of conservation.”

Juliet Davenport, CEO of Good Energy, said:

“Britain is blessed with abundant sources of natural power and we hope people will be inspired when they see how National Trust properties can generate renewable power in harmony with the environment.”

“Together we hope to inspire people to switch to green electricity, reduce their energy usage and if possible generate their own renewable power at home.”

Good Energy is helping the Trust develop its renewable strategy, using its expertise in generating power from natural sources and its experience of supporting more than 46,000 small and medium sized renewable energy generators in the UK.

The National Trust spends nearly £6 million a year to heat and power its estate – 300 major historic houses, plus office buildings, visitor centres and 360 holiday cottages – and without action it forecasts that rising oil and gas prices would take this to £7.5 million by 2020.

The water-wheel at Aberdulais Falls viewed at ground level.

The water-wheel at Aberdulais Falls viewed at ground level.

However, the renewables investment programme is expected to reduce operational energy costs by £4.3 million from 2019 and provide an expected 10 per cent return on investment, thanks to lower fuel costs and schemes such as the Feed-in Tariff and Renewable Heat Incentive.

The Trust’s five pilot projects this year will trial a multi-site approach and prove business models:

Plas Newydd – 300kW marine source heat pump, providing 100% of property’s heat requirements

Croft Castle – 150kW biomass boiler, supplying 74% of property’s heating needs

Ickworth – 300kW biomass boiler, supplying 100% of estate’s heating needs

Craflwyn – more than 100kW hydro-generation, which will be sold back to the grid

Stickle Ghyll – 90kW hydro-electric project providing 30% of property’s energy needs

If the trial phase is deemed successful, the National Trust plans 38 further schemes tailored to individual properties and selected according to strict criteria.

Patrick Begg continued:

“Projects must offer strong financial returns, build energy independence and energy security, but also respect properties’ settings and historical significance, and improve conservation, wherever possible.

“A major focus of the programme will be to dramatically reduce the Trust’s reliance on oil from 20 per cent to 3 per cent. This not only protects it from volatile and rising prices, but also reduces the risk that oil spills will pollute water courses, gardens and buildings. Two of the trial properties, Plas Newydd and Ickworth, are the Trust’s largest users of fuel oil.”

The National Trust has been making steady progress pioneering the use of renewable technologies across the places it looks after.

Over the last decade more than 150 schemes have been installed across a wide range of technologies: wood (biomass), solar electricity and hot water, small-scale wind, hydro-electric, and heat pumps.

Following the development of these projects, there is now widespread recognition of the value and impact which well-built renewables initiatives can bring to local National Trust businesses.

This investment programme is part of a move to invest beyond small impact renewables towards larger-scale initiatives, which can make a greater contribution towards meeting local and national goals, as well as generating income for the Trust.

National Trust and Good Energy Powering a Greener Future

Good Energy Partnership Powers National Trust’s Bold Energy Ambitions

The National Trust and green energy supplier, Good Energy, have announced a strategic energy partnership to help conserve the nation’s special places.  

Good Energy will become the National Trust’s principal energy partner and will provide the charity with financial and practical support in developing renewable energy projects to help meet its ambitious target to halve its use of fossil fuels by 2020.

Projects are likely to include wood-fired boilers to replace old oil heating systems in National Trust properties, plus sustainable water and solar power installations to generate green electricity. 

As part of the initiative, Good Energy will offer its certified 100% green energy tariff to over 4m National Trust members, in addition to supporters and volunteers. 

For each National Trust supporter who signs up to the 100% tariff and standard gas, Good Energy will give up to £40 every year to support the National Trust. 

The UK is blessed with abundant renewable energy sources which were used effectively in the past to generate heat and power.  Good Energy will use its expertise in making the most of natural resources to generate energy, helping the National Trust to meet its bold targets. 

Juliet Davenport, CEO and founder of Good Energy, said:  “Good Energy’s mission is to make the world a more habitable place by changing the way we make and use energy.  This makes us an ideal partner for the National Trust, who takes care of our nation’s most special places.  We are looking forward to supporting the charity in its mission to half its use of fossil fuels by 2020, making the world a better place for all of us.”

Patrick Begg, National Trust Rural Enterprise Director said: “Building a renewable energy future for the special places we look after makes good business as well as environmental sense.

“Investing in renewables helps us reduce our costs which means more of the money we raise can go into vital conservation work. It also means we’re cutting our damaging carbon emissions by burning fewer fossil fuels.  This will be vital in helping us do our bit to reduce the impact of changing climate on these special places.

“The partnership with Good Energy will gives us the opportunity to develop a range of innovative new schemes, and also tap into a wealth of sound advice and support.

“Signing up to Good Energy is another way our members can support the work we do, showing how they care for the places we look after for the benefit of the nation.”