The National Trust has announced that it will invest £30m in renewable energy generation to cut carbon emissions at its historical sites.
Hundreds of castles, stately homes and countryside properties are set to benefit from the technology roll-out that will include biomass boilers and hydro-power schemes, enabling the Trust to reduce energy bills.
More than 40 projects will be rolled out across the Trust’s properties. The Trust made the decision following a £3.5m trial with renewable energy company Good Energy that involved five schemes including installation of a biomass boiler at the Italianate Ickworth estate in Suffolk.
"Many of the properties in our care are energy intensive and in remote areas without access to mains gas,” explained Patrick Begg, rural enterprises director at the National Trust.
"Installing renewable technology in these places is a huge challenge. For instance, we found that connecting hydros to the grid is more complicated than we expected. We have learnt a great deal and we will continue to do so.”
In the Ickworth estate pilot, the National Trust successfully replaced an obsolete oil tank with a modern biomass boiler, removing the risk of oil leaks. Moreover, the boiler can use wood fuel from the estate itself, which the National Trust believes will lead to reforestation of the park.
The £30m investment is the largest the National Trust has made in renewable energy generation and will help the charity to both meet the targets to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and also source half of its energy from renewable resources by 2020.
The Trust also hopes its renewable energy programme could cut up to £4m from its energy bills and provide an additional source of revenue as electricity generated from some of the projects could be sold back to the grid.
Among the first projects to go ahead as part of the multi-million pound refit will be a lake source heating scheme at Blickling Estate in Norfolk, which will use pipes run into the lake on the estate to extract heat from the water to warm the house.
It will remove two oil tanks and more than 25,000 litres of oil consumption by providing an alternative to oil heating, cutting 68 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year, and will be operational at the mansion from the autumn.
In addition to the Blickling Estate project, two biomass boilers powered by pellets from a local company will be installed at Upton House in Warwickshire by the autumn, while a hydro scheme will be completed by next summer at Hayeswater in Cumbria, where there is a legacy of hydropower from historic corn mills and water wheels, which will provide income for the Trust to support its conservation work.