National Trust uses ‘pico’ hydroelectric power to protect first Welsh language bible
Image credit: National Trust Images/Iolo Penri/PA Wire
A 400-year-old Welsh bible described as “one of the most important books” in the country’s history is being protected from water damage by a miniature hydropower system.
One of only 24 known copies of the first bible translated into the Welsh language is displayed at Ty Mawr Wybrnant near Betws-y-Coed in Snowdonia, now cared for by the National Trust.
The book, along with over 200 other bibles in different languages on show at the property, is susceptible to moisture in the air. Increasingly heavy and persistent rainfall, flooding and damp have put the collection at risk.
The National Trust says it has found a sustainable solution by installing a “pico” or small-scale hydroelectric turbine to use water from the nearby stream to help power the heating system to prevent damp.
The Trust said pico hydro is “perfectly suited” to remote communities that need only a small amount of electricity, i.e. under 5kW. At Ty Mawr Wybrnant it will borrow water from the stream close by.
The turbine will generate power for the electric radiators that control levels of humidity in the Grade II listed farmhouse, with the switch to renewable energy protecting the books in a sustainable way.
It means the bible is being protected by the very thing, water, that is also putting it at risk through increasingly heavy and persistent rainfall, flooding and damp, as the climate changes.
It will only take a proportion of water from the stream to drive the turbine when water levels rise to a certain point - likely to be just when the electricity is most needed, as the air is full of moisture after rainfall.
The turbine, discreetly housed in a larch-clad shed, is expected to cut the property’s carbon dioxide emissions by 5.2 tonnes a year.
The bible translation was originally undertaken by Bishop William Morgan, who was born at Ty Mawr Wybrnant. The Welsh bible edition was printed in 1588.
Experts say it helped standardise the Welsh language and is considered to be the single most significant step in ensuring the survival of the language today.
Keith Jones, the National Trust’s climate change adviser, said: “Earlier this year we experienced the worst flood at Ty Mawr Wybrnant in living memory and that extra moisture meant we needed to use more heating to ensure the humidity levels didn’t get too high.
“Climate predictions indicate likely increases in the severity and frequency of rainfall in the area.
“This small-scale technology is allowing us to adapt to future changes more sustainably.”
He added: “The energy is consumed directly on-site, solely for the conservation of this priceless bible collection.
“We must reduce our impact on the climate, but we can harness the tools nature gives us to adapt to the challenges we are facing.”
It is the first time the National Trust has used hydroelectric power for the primary aim of protecting a historic collection.
In July the body said it would divest from fossil fuel companies to ensure it “continues to support its aims as a conservation charity”.
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