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 54.

    Who is 'Salmond bashing?'
    Salmond's own consituency, in beautiful Aberdeenshire, is being called 'AberDOOMshire' by his own constituents as he tries to squeeze in as many turbines as possible.
    No wonder he is not seeking re-election after 2014!

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    I can provide you with a whole list of scientific research which shows that active woodland management such as coppicing is a great help for wildlife.
    Even tree felling in plantations are a real boom to all sorts of species as it offers successional habitats. Try this one about forestry and bees

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    There are two Archimedes Screw generators working in the Thames near Windsor. Wind is so intermittent it is regarded as unreliable and inefficient, so dumped by the Danes. Water flow is an ideal source and can be small and unobtrusive, unlike wind. Solar panels create noxious chemical during manufacture so we need to be very careful. Take a 'whole of life' view and some things look different!

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    @23. Jabdi
    Renewables make sense ONLY when they can be relied on to provide the 'base load' which means you can GUARANTEE that when you switch your kettle on it will get hot. Even then a 'free' power source like wind, rain, sun or tides shouldn't need subsidizing. The problem is wind doesn't always blow so you NEED a proper power source + wasteful windmills.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    #49 It's understandable why the National Trust isn't pursuing geothermal, it does take a lot to get going and a decent geothermal plant does need a bit more space than the National Trust has out of sight on its properties

    Geothermal is better for more urban areas though, plus you can use all the waste heat for so many other things

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    @ 48. species_matter

    I agree with your comments on still using any woodland as an energy source. There are a wealth of other options;

    Geo-Thermal needs to be part of this equation, there is small impact on wildlife.

    We need to help increase personal energy production to help carve out a dependence from external suppliers. - This is an example.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Sadly, wildlife loses out again to ideology. Coppicing does not benefit woodland wildlife, let alone biodiversity, and to claim benefit is to ignore huge numbers of species management has exterminated or rendered threatened in Britain. Similarly, mini-hydro can threaten aquatic life and landscapes. Please base decisions on ecology and urgent threats, not the opinions of narrow-interest groups.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    46. Michael
    Biofuels are NOT carbon free, quite the opposite, it's like a never ending supply of oil, they produce carbon.

    That's an interesting concept. I guarantee you'll get a Nobel prize if you perfect a matter creation machine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Dear anyone that gives a damn

    Renewables like biofues are pointless except to ensure we can keep on polluting. Biofuels are NOT carbon free, quite the opposite, it's like a never ending supply of oil, they produce carbon. This is NOT a good thing for the environment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    1. Dispossessed
    Why does the Trust not attempt to design methods for capturing wind power that are sympathetic to historic landscapes?
    This comment is highest rated at 13:30, which tells me that the UK should be proud that Care in the Community and Freedom of Speech are working so well.

    Why, why did I stay on at school after 14?

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    I think wave technology is the way forward.
    All we need to do is create lots of occasions when we can wave to each other and of course find a way of tapping the energy from our arms into the national grid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    29. OkinawaHarvey
    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.

    Would you like to rethink that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    11 Lucky White Heather - Wow, what a terrible, paranoid argument. And when all rationality fails, Salmond-bash, that always works!
    People always call wind turbines noisy. I've never heard one, have you? Don't find them particularly ugly either, especially compared to the mark a hydro plant leaves.
    Fair enough, show concern over their intermittency, but calling them ugly seems a weak argument.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Good. The more organisations that get on board with renewables now, the more research investment will go back in to develop better (and more visually attractive?) next generation solutions. Wind detractors should realise that putting up with them in their current form now may yeild better designs in the future. And we won't ultimately be left sitting in the dark when the gas runs out!

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    From a student of civil engineering's perspective. We had a Green Msp come in and talk to us about value's and energy.

    His first order of business was to get us to vote on whether we wanted wind farms everywhere. Not one person in my class voted against them.


    We have a huge energy problem, diversifying our green energy has to happen, wind is only one part of the equation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Whether the renewables are practical or not all depends on the site of course
    If they have fast flowing water with plenty of “head” then a small hydro plant could be a good idea

    The down side is that FIT,s make any renewables “practical” for the installer, but silly expensive for the taxpayers

    No doubt the NT are jumping on the FIT bandwagon and just exploiting the taxpayers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    #34 Have a look at the information on the tidal turbine scheme in Strangford Lough. So far it's having a minimal impact on the local wildlife while still providing a good amount of power, and no barrage so silt buildup is as good as non-existant

    Still needs tests in slower flowing tidal zones, but he results so far more than justify the tests

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    @12. Mike_RuralWiltshire
    @30. Miss Ingoff

    My apologies to you. That'll teach me to read the article in full next time!

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Good - when will everyone else catch up though, it needs all of us, as households and businesses, to make the same effort and more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Good to see the NT acknowledge that their woodlands are better for wildlife with active management. That's to be expected. Now hopefully they will also accept that houses with gardens are also better for wildlife than poor quality fields.


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