Since our energy strategy, “Grow your own” was published back in 2010, we’ve embarked on a journey of energy-awareness. We set ourselves two big challenges, to reduce our energy by 20% and to generate 50% of that remainder through renewable and low-carbon energy resources. We’ve committed to do this by 2020.
Some of this is nothing new for us. We’re lucky enough to have access to some amazing natural resources – water, sun (well, sometimes sun) and woodlands. Previous owners of our properties knew this – for example, at Cragside, Northumberland (where Lord Armstrong installed what was probably the first hydro-electric scheme in 1868). Not to mention many historic milling sites, such as Patterson’s Spade Mill, Morden Hall Snuff Mill, Winchester City Mill, to name a few. We’ve brought water-power back to Morden and we’re bringing it back to Cragside.
We’ve already done some great work at enthusiastic properties – from charging an electric mower through a small solar panel at Nymans Gardens to installing our first solar panels on a Grade-I listed castle at Dunster Castle (our latest listed building installation is at Lindisfarne Castle). We also do less obvious work behind the scenes, by replacing our oil-fired boilers with wood-fired ones – for example, Uppark, Chirk Castle, Calke Abbey, and Castle Drogo. Last year, we generated 6% of our energy needs through renewables.
Our biggest project to date is happening right now, in Snowdonia. We’re installing a 600kW hydro-electric system on one of our farms. This scheme will generate the electricity equivalent of over 600 3-bedroom homes. The project team there have just run a very successful open-day. Despite the constant rain, over 200 very keen people were in attendance to see the site and ask questions. We want to do more of this.
We’ve identified just over 40 sites (a mix of hydro-electric, wood-fired systems, and heat pumps) which will help us achieve our goal of 50% generation. Recently, we announced a new partnership with Good Energy, an energy supplier. For every new customer that signs up to their electricity and/or gas tariffs, a donation (£40 for dual-fuel) is made to the National Trust to support our energy strategy and investment in renewables. We’re exploring other options too.
On the energy-saving front, which is arguably more important for us, we have seen lights and equipment being switched off, new heating controls, roof insulation and secondary glazing being put in – all the actions we’d do at home. South Somerset properties went even further quite recently. Their green team held a “green week” which featured a fuel-free Friday, local apple juice and use of thermal images (which shows heating leaks from buildings) – all good ways to encourage energy-saving and the use of local resources.
Last year’s winter was so cold, that we did not quite meet our energy saving target. However, actions like those of South Somerset’s team are just what we need to manage and take ownership of our energy use. We know that whatever we save has a global impact, as well as local impact. Whatever you believe about climate change, we’ve seen the very real impact that freakish weather patterns has on our properties – from flash-flooding affecting historic buildings and contents to storm damage of centuries-old landscapes and ancient woodlands.
- Kirsty Rice has been the Energy Adviser for the National Trust since 2007. She is responsible for devising national energy strategy and reduction targets, in addition to providing advice on energy efficiency and renewable or low-carbon technologies. Her background is in project and financial management, working on environmental projects for the last ten years in public and private sectors.
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