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 34.


    The problem with tidal power is that it can be hugely damaging to the local environment. silt builds up behind the barrage and causes a change of ecology.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    There are huge windfarms off the coast of Norfolk - you can barely see them. Exactly as its supposed to be. If the Scots want to plaster their beautiful and remote areas with them, thats up to them. Not in England please, I'd rather have a handful of nuclear plants than that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Writer seems to think, like the SNP up here, that "wind is the only renewable". Wind is only about 20% efficient, and relies on taxing consumers to give huge subsidies to german companies. The Borders are swamped with planning applications and most are for 21MW schemes, just above the "major development" threshold so the SNP can overide the council. Well done NT for challenging the wind bullies!

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Looking at the options of nuclear and renewables I come out on the renewables side and the reason that pushed me towards them was the fact that after the lifespan of the renewables is up they can be recycled to produce something else. But with nuclear we leave a legacy to others that cannot be recycled.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    25 MJ

    Traditionally, yes, an Archimedes screw has traditionally been used for pumping but, if you read the article, you'll see that they're also being used as a low-speed turbine, to generate electricity. If I recall correctly, there's even a pair at Windsor Castle now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    At least they being realistic about their renewables and not using wind.
    Heat pump circuits can be set under compost heaps and water always flows.
    I still think Tidal power is the way to go and unlike Solar and wind you know its only going to slacken off twice a day.

    The government chickened out on the Seven Barrier on cost but never thought how much money it would save our balance of payments

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    All efforts to generate our own electricity instead of being dependent on others has to be encouraged. Biased reporting that it only produces a fraction needed is Govt contrived as subsidies were hastily cut & then dispensed with as take-up increased on the grounds that there was enough already. This is not the case. The UK is capable of generating all its own power via wind, solar & hydro energy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    This news is highly commendable but the basic law of everything seems to be that you can't have a positive without there being some negatives to balance.
    Even with renewable energy sources, there is always some negative environmental impact. That negative impact must always be balanced with the positive impact on the environment, human & economic concerns and it is never easy to get it right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    @13. Bumble
    You are welcome to them, as long as you are happy to foot the bill and suffer from the electricity outages when mother nature doesn't blow.
    I need cheap and reliable power - sources are coal, tide and waterwheels. Waterwheels aren't 100% reliable but close, the tide is and coal is. Wind power is like electric cars an expensive fancy that is too flawed to work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    12. Mike_RuralWiltshire
    51 Minutes ago

    "An Archimedes Screw can be used in many places where there is flowing water, "


    You don't seem to know what an Archimedes Screw is. It's a pump for raising water, not a power generator.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Wow a BBC Green story which allows open comments.
    - If Green Dream worked then it wouldn't need subsidies. As it is the subsidies the NT will receive will come from the higher energy bills of poor people.
    How much global warming have we had in the last 16 years ? By the same record of predictions, since children visit NT to see backward times, in 40 years these windfarms will be in t right place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Renewable energy sources are the future, and I guess we can only dream of a nation that got 50% of its energy from renewable sources. I applaud the National Trust's ambition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Rivers are always flowing*, but the wind is not always blowing...

    Why are we not developing a lot more small scale hydro power? After all it's what powered the early industrial revolution in this country.

    * Notwithstanding a few rare drought situations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    "Managing woods more intensively, including coppicing, has actually increased biodiversity". The National Trust have seen the light!

    I look forward to walking through managed woodlands rather than preserved/ignored ones. Well done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    It looks like the National Trust is on the right track, they're going for the more efficient types of renewables and haven't fallen into the "Renewables = wind and nothing else" trap that a lot in this country seem to be in.

    Even better if they can continue to use parts of the historic infrastructure for power generation

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    agree with 13.bumble,

    we are too energy hungry and need to be more self efficient! so what if it creates a noise and "upsets" a view.

    this world NEEDS to use renewable energy solar/wind/hydro are always going to be there and can work in harmony with the enviroment rather than digging up this world and burning it because we can only dig so much........

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    As many buildings have water wheels and similar I don't see why this wasn't done years ago as a way of saving money. I noted in Germany that many towns and villages have waterwheels in smaller rivers and streams. Where as in the UK (Mildenhall recently) we are still destroying them and building inefficient, unreliable, expensive and ugly wind mills. Rivers rarely fail - very rarely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    National Trust should be renewed but exactly in whom should, or can, we trust.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    "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."

    This seems like just a cheap shot to round off the article, it says more about the writer than the National Trust.

    Perhaps the writer thinks we should also have free food from farmers who have installed subsidised solar panels?

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    The trust is on the right path, Some places are not suitable for wind turbines and would upset the scenic views that inspired many generations before and after us. I thoroughly agree with the sentiment that many water mills could be converted into small hydro power plants. I suspect this would attract visitors and more school visits.


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