UK’s National Trust turns on small hydro plant

A hydroelectric plant at the National Trust’s Hafod y Llan farm in Snowdonia began operating earlier this week.

The hydro project is expected to generate 1,900 MWh per year. This is enough electricity for about 445 homes, and the electricity produced will be sold to customers of renewable power supplier Good Energy.

Development of the project was challenging but rewarding. “The end result? We’ve got a hidden hydro capturing half a tonne of water per second and generating a couple of million kilowatt hours of renewable energy each year – I’m quietly pleased!” says Keith Jones, the trust’s environmental advisor for Wales.

The National Trust has established a £35 million program to build solar, wind, biomass and hydro generators across its grounds by 2020. The goal is to cut its energy use by a fifth, halve its fossil fuel consumption and generate half its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. This hydro plant is the first of 44 planned power plants. The trust will use some of the energy it generates and sell the remainder to the grid. It anticipates reducing its power bill by about £4 million a year, and it can invest that money in the charity’s conservation work.

The overall building program is contingent on five pilot energy projects hitting their targets. Its other pilot projects include two additional hydro projects, one at Sticklebarn pub near Ambleside in the Lake District, a marine source heat pump and biomass boilers.

The National Trust is a charity that works to preserve and protect historic places and spaces. It opens 300 historic houses and properties to the visiting public, operates 360 holiday cottages and cares for thousands of tenanted buildings. The trust spends almost £6 million (US$9.86 million) a year on electricity, oil and gas.