Conservation group to get 50% of energy from renewables

Water wheel   National Trust The Trust already has some 150 individual renewables schemes

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The National Trust has revealed a plan to generate half of its power from renewable sources by 2020.

The trust already has 150 individual renewables schemes, but the new document projects how fossil fuel will be reduced across its properties.

It aspires to set an example to others by integrating renewable energy into sensitive landscapes.

The organisation has been criticised for its chairman's vociferous campaign against wind power.

This is considered as the renewable source with most potential in the UK.

Under its new plan, the trust's main renewables by 2020 will be hydro (27%) and biomass (21%); augmented by heat pumps (1%) and solar (0.5%).

Grid electricity will supply 26% of its power, gas 15% and LPG 6%. Oil - currently a major cost and carbon source for the trust's rural properties - will be reduced to just 3%.

There are also plans to cut energy consumption by 20%. Wind power will play no part, because the trust's historic landscapes are deemed too sensitive.

Patrick Begg, rural enterprise director for the trust, which aims to preserve historic buildings and land for the enjoyment of the public, told BBC News: "We've put all our effort to make the big leap in generating renewable energy from all our properties. Our new programme will get us to (50% of energy) by 2020."

The subsidised renewables will save the organisation money, he said, producing an expected return on capital of 10% - much better than traditional investments.

Unexpected bonus

Morden Hall Park, in south-west London, already boasts an array of renewables, including a wood-fired boiler, different sorts of solar panels and what is claimed to be the UK's most energy-efficient historic building, the Stable Yard.

The new showpiece, behind the old water wheel and Snuff Mill, is an Archimedes screw reclining in the River Wandle, lazily generating power for the visitor centre (the Archimedes screw was originally designed as an irrigation pump. Its modern adaptation allows power to be generated from a low head of water).

The biggest unexpected bonus to the trust overall has come from biomass burning for heating. The organisation owns 25,000 hectares of woodland and Mr Begg acknowledged initial fears that wildlife would be harmed if the woods were managed more intensively for fuel.

Patrick Begg Here, Patrick Begg stands in front of the Archimedes Screw on the River Wandle

"We were very pleased to see that the opposite has been the case," he said. "Managing woods more intensively, including coppicing, has actually increased biodiversity."

The trust's efforts overall have been applauded - but with reservations. It is a major land-holder, but if all the improvements go to plan will still be generating the tiniest fraction of the UK's renewable energy.

What is more, its chairman Simon Jenkins has used his influential newspaper columns to fuel opposition to wind energy, which is the most readily available large-scale renewable energy source in the UK.

This has been highly controversial with some environmentalists accusing him of setting back the cause of renewable energy in a desire to preserve the landscape in aspic.

Mr Begg said: "Simon has some very strong opinions about wind, which he's free to express. The Trust has been perfectly clear - we're not anti-wind, we're anti-wind in the wrong place, badly designed."

He said the Trust, an organisation loved by Britain's middle classes, had no misgivings about receiving electricity subsidies from poor people struggling to pay their bills. The subsidy system, he said, was designed to tackle climate change and the Trust wished to play its part.

The majority of the trust's estate was free to enter, he said There were no plans to open the other properties free of charge to people in fuel poverty.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    The last two paragraphs seem to unveil the article writers prejudice against the National Trust.

    "an organisation loved by Britain's middle classes, had no misgivings about receiving electricity subsidies from poor people struggling to pay their bills"

    Is the National Trust not loved by all 7 classes of British people? Unless the writer has some evidence to back up his assertion?

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    @12 Mike_RuralWiltshire
    'Wind turbines are an eyesore'
    Only in your opinion, I'd rather have wind turbines and the noise they produce over what will happen if we carry on our love affair with fossil fuels.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Wind turbines are an eyesore, out of scale with the landscape and humans and noisy. They are not the same as the windmills used to grind flour, etc.
    An Archimedes Screw can be used in many places where there is flowing water, so we should have many more of them. Solar panels should be used but only where they are out of sight and the reflective 'glow' does not cause glare to drivers or pilots.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Oh, no! Et tu, National Trust?
    Scotland, if Salmond prevails, will be covered in ugly, concreted- in windfarms, ruining the landscape and chasing the tourists.
    The opposition of the locals means nothing, because Salmond rides roughshod, Thatcher-like, to get his own way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    'Wind turbines are an eyesore?' Depends who is looking at them. They don't bother me one bit.
    'Use of biomass is controversial?' Depends what it is. Anaerobic digestion of slurries and food wastes (these are biomass) is a process giving biogas for electricity and heat generation, and also a high-quality fertiliser - used to replace synthetic fertiliser in agriculture.
    Lots of options for the NT.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Fuel poverty?

    Made up nonsense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    With any savings they make, i'll bet my life on it, that they will still increase their entry fees. . . . . . .I went to see a 'Gorge' in Devon. . . . . .been there millions of years, no problems. They put up a fence and charge a £9 entry fee?!!!. . . . . .How anyone has the right to just do this is beyond me

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Left wing "I'm a victim" drivel gets everywhere.

    Apart from that, fair point

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Wind energy has been part of the British economy for centuries and should not be totally dismissed. Using biomass is also controversial, land used to grow effective biomass crops can not be used for conventional agriculture. .

    However I applaud the NT's committment for expoloring renewables. We need more research into their development and practical deployment

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    How are they ‘snaffling subsidies from ‘poor’ people?
    Why Wind Power? It relies on government subsidies and looks like an eyesore on the landscape which I would think would be a bit counter-productive for the NT?

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Why have they not opted for 100%? Its doable...

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I agree with Dispossessed. If the Trust wants to take a lead, then do so. Hydro sits well for rural areas but so does wind. I sympathise that badly designed wind power can look poor in the wrong place (although I don't agree that turbines are a blight on the landscape). So come on, sponsor the design of better!

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Many National Trust properties include water mills or the remnants of them. Priority should be given to producing hydropower from these.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    I would believe that the National Trust cared about the environment rather than just trying to snaffle subsidies from poor people if they were challenging themselves. Wind power has been a part of britain's landscape for hundreds of years. Why does the Trust not attempt to design methods for capturing wind power that are sympathetic to historic landscapes?


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