National Trust touts 138 new renewable energy projects after nine years of work
The National Trust has confirmed the completion of its biggest-ever investment programme in green energy, with 138 renewable projects installed under the £35m workstream. It has also announced a new plan to replace this programme through to 2030.
The British conservation charity has announced the milestone following nine years of work today (23 October). The completion of the projects, including solar arrays and hydropower projects, has enabled the Trust to meet 50% of its energy demand with self-generated clean power, up from 26% in the 2018/19 financial year.
Projects across the Trust’s land and buildings now collectively generate some 24 million kWh of energy each year.
Sites that have benefitted from new solar panels include Orford Ness, in Suffolk, where 76 panels have been installed using ‘no dig’ methods. This solar system is able to meet half of the site’s energy needs.
Other sites have been better suited to hydropower, including Watendlath in the Lake District; Hafod y Porth in Snowdonia and Castle Drogo in Dartmoor. Many of these projects have involved modernising existing hydro facilities that had been in place for decades.
As well as increasing clean energy generation, the Trust has been working to decommission old oil boilers in country houses and to replace them with alternatives like biomass boilers and heat pumps. The Trust claims that, over their lifetime, the more modern heating projects will mitigate the use of one million litres of oil. This means that, for 2023, oil will account for some 7% of the charity’s energy use.
For example, the Vyne Tudor mansion house in Hampshire has had a water-source heat pump installed, with coils fitted in the lake on the estate. The Trust claims that visitors at most sites would not even notice the new cleantech installations.
“As debate intensifies around how the UK sources, generates and saves energy, these projects offer a snapshot of what’s possible – even in the most challenging and remote of settings,” said the Trust’s director of outdoors and natural resources Patrick Begg. “The technology and the solutions are already at our fingertips.”
Next phase of work
The National Trust began work on its £35m green energy scheme well before it set out its net-zero target, which will require it to go further and faster to reduce emissions. The target was announced in early 2020 and has a 2030 deadline.
At the time that the net-zero target was published, the charity stated that it was developing longer-term plans on the energy transition. Now, as the first phase of this work is completed, it has published additional details on this second phase.
The Trust has outlined plans for an eight-year programme of investment, again focused on renewable energy generation and lower-carbon heating. This programme will be focused on addressing the heating needs of its 100 highest-emitting buildings. It will also see the Trust working to generate more renewable electricity in places where onsite solutions are suitable, in a bid to counterbalance residual emissions at locations where these solutions cannot be installed.
Begg added: “This summer’s extreme weather was another reminder of the increasingly palpable effects of climate change – and we can’t afford to take our foot off the pedal. We have our sights set on being net-zero by 2030, and investing in more clean, home-grown energy is an important step in that direction.”