A hydroelectric turbine in Snowdonia, Wales, will begin generating power on Wednesday in the National Trust’s first large-scale renewable energy project.
The National Trust’s Snowdonia hydro scheme is expected to generate 1,900 MWh per year
Patrick Begg, rural enterprises director at the National Trust, said the hydro schemewould ensure a sustainable future for the property, which was bought for the nation with a campaign spearheaded by Sir Anthony Hopkins in 1998.
“We’re lucky to be blessed with an abundance of natural resources that we look after for the benefit of the nation,” he said. “Now with this new trading company we can harness some of the power generated by nature to help fund our conservation work.
“However, the real prize for us as the UK’s largest conservation charity is that we are helping to protect special places forever by creating sustainable energy solutions that work in complete harmony with our natural and historic heritage.”
As a charity, the trust is unable to sell excess power, so has set up a trading company to sell electricity to invest in conservation work such as footpath repairs and habitat management.
The trust says turbine is expected to generate 1,900 megawatt hours per year – enough electricity to power around 445 homes and more than the amount needed to light all of its properties in Wales, which includes eight mansions, three castles and 45 holiday cottages.
But critics say any improvement in its own energy performance are outweighed by the trust’s continued and heavily criticised opposition to wind farms.
A spokeswoman for RenewableUK, the trade association for wind, wave power and tidal power industries, said: “It’s great to see the National Trust’s commitment to developing their renewable energy portfolio – and that they’re profiting from it too. To achieve the decarbonisation we need to clean up our energy system, it’s essential that the amount of low carbon electricity we generate increases, so we hope to see the National Trust taking an equally pragmatic approach to the development of other large-scale renewable energy projects as well.”
Last year it launched a £3.5 million plan with Good Energy to provide clean energy to 43 historic properties, beginning with five pilot projects involving a marine source heat pump, two biomass boilers and two hydropower turbines.
It is hoped the scheme will help the charity to reduce energy use by 20 per cent, generate half its energy from renewables sources by 2020 and halve fossil fuel use in the same period. This would save the charity £4 million a year in energy costs that could be released for conservation work.
The trust says its policy is to “consider opportunities to install renewable technology where it is appropriate and in the right location and scale for the landscape”.
Last year the trust was reported to be fighting against 25 wind farm proposals that it said threatened stately homes and unspoilt landscape.
A spokeswoman said the latest planning records showed the trust was currently objecting to 10 wind developments. “This is largely due to the number, scale and location of the turbines in respect of the landscape. There are further live wind applications that we are commenting on, but we are not currently objecting to these.”
Last October the Times published a front-page story saying the National Trust had an “open mind” about fracking – but would not allow wind farms. But the chair, Dame Helen Ghosh, later said the headlines were misleading and the quotes selective.
Responding to a blogpost by George Monbiot asking her to clarify her position, she wrote: “We believe wind has a place in the clean energy portfolio but the ‘kit’ needs to work with the landscape – and it’s our job to look after some very beautiful ones.
“We do have some small-scale wind on our land, and we don’t always oppose wind farms, particularly if they meet the agreed environmental guidelines. But it’s not for the trust to be the national planning authority for exactly where every renewable development goes.”