Meet the E&E Award-winner: Onsite Energy Generation – National Trust

In 1895, the National Trust was established to preserve Britain's heritage and open spaces. More than 120 years later, the organisation is living up to that ethos like never before, having successfully adopted a holistic approach to and sustainability and tackling climate change through the improved energy efficiency of the properties it manages across the country. Meet the Onsite Energy Generation Award-winner...

In 2010, the Trust publically committed to an ambitious new sustainability policy with a focus on conserving energy and developing on-site renewables. Specifically, the Trust set a goal of reducing energy use by 20% by 2020 – a target that has since become a key performance indicator for the organisation.

But, by 2013, the organisation was facing a dilemma: it was clear that the renewable energy goal would not be reached without a radical change in approach. Competing local priorities were preventing certain projects from getting off the ground, and the projects that were being delivered were seeing mixed results.

And so, having obtained crucial boardroom buy in, the National Trust launched a fresh Renewable Energy Programme in an effort to deliver a number of concurrent green energy schemes and implement renewable heat and power solutions without compromising the beauty and natural integrity of the sites the Trust manages.

Five pilot projects later, the Trust successfully overcame a range of technical and operational challenges in the roll out of biomass boilers, hydropower turbines and marine source heat pumps at sites ranging from Plas Newydd in north Wales to Ickworth in Suffolk.

The environmental and financial results are already clear to see. Thanks to the simple-but-effective addition of the ‘golden rule’ that energy efficiency work must be carried out on properties before any on-site renewable energy projects are installed, energy use has fallen by 78% at Plas Newydd and 33% at Ickworth from a 2010 baseline. Overall, the Trust has generated 2GWh from the first six projects and the reinvigorated Renewable Energy Programme is well on track to reach its 2020 target.

In addition to those fantastic results, what makes this project particularly inspiring is the Trust’s realisation that the great challenge of installing on-site sustainability solutions on historic – often listed –properties actually presents a unique opportunity; to harness the power of nature to mitigate climate impacts, whether it’s souring heat from on-site lakes and ponds, or chipping wood from local woodlands for biomass boilers.

What’s more, the Trust is educating visitors about renewable energy along the way – new boilers and pumps are celebrated through open house tours and other on-site installations are, in many instances, offering an additional reason to visit a National Trust property.

Judges’ comments:

The National Trust’s relentless focus on energy efficiency and the development of on-site renewables s truly inspiring – particularly given the complexity and uniqueness so many of its historic properties. This is a great example of the myriad benefits that can be realised through sustainable business.

Onsite Energy Generation: Meet the finalists

United Utilities

The installation of a 3MW solar array, floating on the open reservoir at Godley Water Treatment Works, comprises 10,500 285-watt panels (15,570m²) and was the first large-scale floating installation of its kind – it is still the largest in Europe. In addition to saving the business power from imports as well as escalating taxes, levies and distribution charges, the installation provides a degree of security of supply.


A revolutionary 2MW ground source heat pump now provides heat to a 16-acre glasshouse. The installation will reduce heating costs by an estimated 58% against previous fossil fuel costs alone, showing the true capabilities of heat pumps within commercial operations. The grower’s carbon footprint will be reduced by an estimated 858 tonnes annually – equivalent to a commercial passenger plane flying around the world 186 times.

Lyreco UK

International workplace supplies provider Lyreco UK partnered up with EvoEnergy to install a 13,860-panel solar PV system which will provide renewable energy to Lyreco’s head office and national distribution centre in Telford, cutting energy costs by £50,000 every year. This system has the capability to generate 3.8MWp and is expected to produce 3.2GWh of electricity annually.  

Arbor Heat and Power

This is the UK’s first commercially-ready, small-scale biomass gasification CHP system and the first to be granted ROCs and RHI payments. Arbor’s demonstration installation provides nearly 100% of the farm’s power requirement. The scheme operated for 6000 hours in its first year – a feat which has been widely applauded within the industry and the availability is now close to 8000 hours per annum.


The National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC) embarked upon this on-site solar PV project which involved the installation of a 447kW array of 1,490 roof-mounted solar panels. Larger 300W output panels were also used, offering a seven-year payback and estimated savings of £2.7m over the system’s lifecycle. This first step towards renewable energy has been very well received by NIBSC staff and has generated a lot of stakeholder interest, as well as renewable energy.

Wood Energy Solutions

The CogeTherm system from Tipperary-based Wood Energy Solutions is a wood pellet micro combined heat and power appliance. It was initially launched for domestic applications but has since expanded to cater for large commercial and industrial applications. The Cogetherm breaks with convention as all of the thermal and electrical energy required by a standard domestic dwelling can now be provided by a single unit that has low running costs and, most importantly, is renewable and carbon-neutral.

edie staff

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