A new way to overcome the challenges of building renewables on significant and extreme weather-prone places has been successfully trialled by the National Trust.
The conservation charity has switched on a hydro turbine at Hafod y Porth in Snowdonia. The scheme is uniquely the Trust’s first hydro turbine to be pre-fabricated off site before being transferred and assembled on location.
Today’s launch also marks the successful completion of the third project in the £3.5million pilot phase of the charity’s ambitious Renewable Energy Investment (REI) Programme, launched last year in conjunction with the renewable electricity supplier Good Energy.
In another first for the charity, the team developing the Hafod y Porth hydro are working with researchers from the Hydro-BPT project at Bangor University to calculate the carbon footprint of the installation and expect it to balance its energy investment in less than a year of being in operation.
Keith Jones, National Trust Environmental Practices Advisor, said: “We do get a lot of unpredictably wet weather in Snowdonia. This can be great when the hydro is in, but it’s not ideal for construction – a couple of flash floods can wash away days of hard work. By pre-fabricating components off site we’re removing a lot of these risks, reducing our carbon footprint and driving down our overall costs.”
Building the hydro components off site also gave the team a greater level of control over the installation of the weir which has been sensitively crafted into the beautiful and historic landscape near to Dinas Emrys, a scheduled ancient monument and legendary birthplace of Wales’ national emblem, the Red Dragon.
The hydro scheme which has a capacity of just under 100kW cost £550,000 and has an anticipated payback of around six years. All of the cleaner electricity generated will be sold via the Grid to the 100 per cent renewable electricity supplier and the National Trust’s energy partner, Good Energy.
Money raised from the project will be ploughed back into conservation projects in Snowdonia, such as footpath repairs and rhododendron control.
Trystan Edwards, General Manager of Snowdonia & Llŷn , said: “We’re looking after around 8,000 hectares of staggeringly diverse and beautiful moorland, farmland and river valleys here in Snowdonia, which people love to explore.
“At a time of climatic change, it is an incredible privilege but also a great responsibility to be the caretaker for such a significant place. There is a need to diversify, and renewable energy that works in harmony with its setting helps us to do that so we can protect this treasured land into the future.”
Juliet Davenport OBE, founder and CEO of Good Energy, said: “Our vision is to help create a safer, greener Britain.
“Good Energy is proud to be buying electricity generated at National Trust sites like this. This hydro investment of £550,000, which will be paid back over the next six years, is a fantastic example of the technological innovation in renewables.”
Other pilot projects in the Trust’s REI programme that have now been completed are an award winning 300kW marine source heat pump – the biggest in Britain – at Plas Newydd on Anglesey and a 199kW biomass boiler at Croft Castle in Herefordshire. The remaining two schemes, a 100kW hydro turbine at Sticklebarn Tavern in Great Langdale and a 199kW biomass boiler at Ickworth in Suffolk, will be launched early next year.
If the pilot phase is successful, the Trust is expected to spend ten times that amount on 43 renewable energy projects, which will help the charity to meet its targets to halve fossil fuel use and generate 50 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. It will also save the charity around £4million each year, to fund more conservation projects. A decision on the full REI programme is likely to be made in Spring 2015.
Energy users can support the Trust’s energy programme by making the switch and signing up to renewable electricity supplied by the charity’s energy partner, Good Energy. The company will pay the Trust up to £40 per year for each new customer that signs up to its dual fuel tariff and mentions the National Trust.
Find out more about the Trust’s energy work and partnership with Good Energy at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/energy