The real power behind the throne: Queen goes green

Final planning permission has been granted to build a hydro-electric power plant to supply electricity to Windsor Castle.

In what is a first for the Royal Household, as well as the largest of its kind in the South of England, the £1 million 200 kilowatt scheme will be built at the site of the current Romney Weir, between Eton and Windsor.

Four turbines will be submerged in two of the weir's bays to provide energy for around one-third of Windsor Castle's needs.

Alastair Gill, Hydro Development Manager for npower renewables - the company installing the scheme - said: "This is great news. We have worked hard on the project to get it to this stage and it's fantastic to receive the go-ahead. As well as being carefully designed to fit into the surroundings, by using the existing weir, the project will have little impact on the ecology, navigation and marine life of the river."

A spokesman for npower renewables told edie that the scheme would now require a full feasibility study but construction should begin by the start of 2006. It is estimated it will take one year to build.

The Royal Family is also exploring renewable energy for the Balmoral Estate. A stream has been harnessed to produce hydro-electric power both for the estate and, potentially, a thousand homes in the area. A water driven turbine was first introduced there in the 1920s to provide the estate with electric light.

Since the 1950s, however, it has been used to power the estate sawmill. As this is no longer in use, staff are planning to install a generator which would allow the turbine to be connected to the national grid.

Meanwhile, at Buckingham Palace, a bore hole was drilled in 2002 to pump up cold water to cool a series of plates, similar to the elements of a refrigerator, which in turn are used to provide air-conditioning for the palace.

After cooling the plates, the water is then recycled by topping up the water levels in the lake in Buckingham Palace gardens.

In addition, the Palace has installed a computerised Building Management System to control heating and power systems, enabling them to be reviewed and adjusted so that they are running as efficiently as possible.

There is no evidence that windmills will be installed over the Palace or that the Mall will be ploughed up to make way for an organic vegetable plot, but onlookers are pleased that an environmental lead is being taken by Her Majesty the Green.

By David Hopkins



Waste & resource management
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