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 74.

    65.Unimpressed with censorship - "Considering the amount of fast flowing rivers in this country, it doesn't take a mastermind to work out how to generate constant electricity from those......."

    Yes it bloody well does - have you forgotten that in 2012 we started the year with droughts and finished them with widespread flooding......

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    It makes perfect sense for the NT to look at using renewables. Combine this with improving technology and the actual need for main-stream power such as fossil fuels/nuclear/wind drops hugely as time goes on.

    Hydroelectric from NT watermills seems one obvious source of renewables and even small-scale hydroelectric damns.

    This is good news to hear that the NT is now pursuing this route.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    What will be the impact of this on our balance of trade because we don't manufacture hardly any of this stuff?

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    69. anotherfakename
    You may have taken all of the kinetic energy but you won't have removed all of the potential energy, so gravity will accelerate the water away for you (why it was moving in the first place of course).

    And you don't see a small problem with a device that has fast moving water going in on one side and slow moving water coming out at the other?

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Glad to hear it. Shame that Mr Begg, their rural enterprise director seems so surprised about the benefits of active management. Fairly typical for those on the ground to be quietly getting on with doing good work, with senior managers blissfully unaware.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    @67. SeeDubya
    You may have taken all of the kinetic energy but you won't have removed all of the potential energy, so gravity will accelerate the water away for you (why it was moving in the first place of course). Indeed, if you wait a sensible distance you can stick another water wheel in the same river :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    @60. SeeDubya
    It wouldn't cost a lot really - at least not compared to the value of the material down there. Same as it wouldn't actually have taken more than 5 minutes thought to put out the coal fire that shut the mine last month (a few lorry loads of sand down the shafts, blocks the air, fire out... end of story. It was worth digging all the soil out, easier to pump water.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    65. Unimpressed with censorship
    Considering the amount of fast flowing rivers in this country, it doesn't take a mastermind to work out how to generate constant electricity from those.

    It does actually. Suppose you remove the kinetic energy from a cubic metre of this "fast flowing water", how do you get rid of the water?

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    There's an unreasonable criticism of Simon Jenkins here from Roger Harrabin.
    Jenkins is quite right to oppose windfarms where they spoil the landscape that the NT is supposed to preserving.
    Harrabin is wrong about wind being best. Wind is unreliable - it produces no power when there's no wind. Tide and hydro are much more reliable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Considering the amount of fast flowing rivers in this country, it doesn't take a mastermind to work out how to generate constant electricity from those. However you can bet the Water Authority will have some bureaucracy to stop me doing it......considering they havnt serviced the rivers for well over 100 years, they shouldn't have the right to a say. I service the river and keep it clear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    @58. Mike_RuralWiltshire
    There were at least 2 water powered mills in Mildenhall. One was recently converted into flats. The water wheel and generators that provided the very first electricity in the area were left disconnected and not bought back to use. Pointless to waste the opportunity but the builder did, and the planners allowed it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    UrbanRedFox. NT has been managing its woodlands for decades! See their website.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    It's shocking if the NT has only just realised the benefits of managing its woodland. Selective tree felling (as opposed to clear felling large areas) and coppicing introduces light to areas that would otherwise be dark and lifeless. Lots of economic benefits also: jobs, locally sourced timber production and reducing imports, and one for Daily Mail readers; increased rural property prices ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    "Conservation group to get 50% of energy from renewables" runs the headline. So if we come back in 5, 10, or 20 years time that will be true, will it ?
    Take a look at the past predictions of Green Dream Believing ..shame on the BBC for their activist propaganda again instead of proper science.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    59. anotherfakename
    Gas may run out (only may) in our lifetime BUT coal will not run out for hundreds of years.

    Unfortunately the Wicked Witch of the East flooded this country's coal mines, so it would now cost a fortune to get at it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    @41. checkdaherefordz
    Here the editor presents his complete (and standard) BBC incompetence.
    First wind detractors have a VERY valid point - wind is not reliable therefore if we rely on it we WILL be sitting in the dark when other power is switched off.
    Gas may run out (only may) in our lifetime BUT coal will not run out for hundreds of years.
    Wind is expensive and pointless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    In Cromford, Derbyshire, is a museum entirely powered by a water turbine under the floor. It creates spare electricity that is used locally as well. That is what we should be doing and not despoiling the landscape.
    Nuclear has its uses, thorium is promising and much 'cleaner'. Magnox twinned with Fast Breeder recycled all the fuel with little waste, but plutonium is perceived as a problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    It's a start but what we really need is a cultural change, but considering that ppl are far to selfish and have to have as many gadgets as possible runnig at the same time things are unlikely to change until we reach a point where the bioshpere becomes toxic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    The actual percentage of renewables is absolutely irrelevant – I could say I’d paid off 50% of my credit card bill, but the really important thing is it £5 or £50,000?
    Given the static nature of many National Trust properties, they could reduce carbon emissions to virtually nothing just by turning the heating and lights off, all you’d need was electricity for the tills in the gift shop!

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    @46. Michael
    As others have pointed out you miss the science. Burning the plants does indeed produce carbon dioxide (and other things). The oxygen in the CO2 comes from the atmosphere, the carbon from the plant. Now the plant has gained that carbon by absorbing CO2 from the air and 'exhaling' the oxygen it doesn't need. No carbon created , merely cycled around. The energy is indirectly solar.


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