The installation of a new Archimedes screw will provide hydropower to the house just as under the previous owner, Lord Armstrong, who used water from the lakes on the estate to generate electricity through a turbine in 1878.

The modern hydro system, a 17 metre long galvanised turbine, will be launched at Cragside today (July 29), producing enough energy to light the entire property, producing around 12kw of electricity and providing around 10% of its electricity.

While it will power the lights all year, it will not yet be enough to run the property’s computers or freezers.

Hydroelectric heritage

Cragside’s property curator Andrew Sawyer said: “It is a very visual demonstration of the way hydro power works, an almost sculptural sight in the landscape.

“Hydroelectricity is the world’s most widely used form of renewable energy, so we are looking forward to sharing this very special part of its heritage.”
The National Trust’s head of conservation for the North East Sarah Pemberton added: “The hydro-turbine is a great example of the innovative methods we are using to achieve the highest possible standards of sustainability.

“The technology is easy to maintain due to the simple mechanics, and because it works at low speed, it’s possible for fish to pass through the turbine unharmed.

“The best thing about the screw is that it’s visible and we hope this will add to people’s understanding of why Cragside is so special. Visitors will be able to view the technology from the lake side.”

Renewed focus

This green energy project is part of the National Trust’s wider energy goals; to halve fossil fuel use and generate 50% of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Last year, the National Trust launched a £3.5m renewable energy scheme in collaboration with renewable energy supplier Good Energy. By bringing down energy usage by 20% by 2020, the charity aims to reduce its energy bills by more than £4m per year.

And in April 2014, the Trust launched its own renewable energy trading company – National Trust Renewable Energy Ltd – with the money raised from selling electricity ploughed back into conservation projects such as footpath repairs and habitat management.

Fracking risk

Earlier this week, the charity commented on the Government’s launch of the new round of fracking licences. The plans exclude world heritage sites, national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty from the licences, except in ‘exceptional circumstances’.

More than 40% of land owned by the National Trust is in the national parks of England and Wales. Commenting on the announcement, the National Trust’s Richard Hebditch said: “We welcome the new planning guidance which will make clear that applications should be refused in these areas other than in exceptional circumstances.

“But it’s not just national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty that could be at risk but other special places too, which is why we’d like to see this approach extended to nature reserves and other wildlife sites like Sites of Special Scientific Interest as well.

“This is a significant change in approach from DECC. We hope it will reflect a much more cautious approach that recognises the risks of turning some of the most special places in the country over to industrial scale extraction of shale gas and oil.”

Matt Field

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