Advantages of Electric Vehicles and the National Trust Wales. Coffee and cake as well as Kilowatts!

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 21.48.48It was good to be mentioned in dispatches. What Car’s chief vehicle tester John McILroy tweeted about using the National Trust Penrhyn Castle EV charge point on the way over to Ireland with a new range extended BMW i3 EV (watch this space on this vehicle as well!). Technical difficulties meant that he was caught short with a well know super markets charge point and thanks to Kevin of @zerocarbonworld he came over to see us. Kw’s in the car is one thing. But another energy measurement has gone down just as well. The calorie.  The Penrhyn Latte and walnut cake. When we took the decision to install free to use chargers at every National Trust property in Wales we knew the ‘added benefits’ of an NT property would make the experience a good one. To follow Johns experiences with the car and the journey…follow his blog.

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IWA Wales Energy Summit – Council of despair or planning the plan? #thewaleswewant

Not one for summits normally but yesterdays got me 'thinking' about what we can, should and must do...or 'hell in a hand cart' awaits us.

Not one for summits normally but yesterday got me ‘thinking’ about what we can, should and must do…or ‘hell in a hand cart’ awaits us.

Personal musings!

Getting up at 4am for a 9 o clock event in Cardiff is a challenge in itself. But the Energy Summit in Cardiff yesterday had bigger elephants to fry (mixing my metaphors). I usually avoid summits, workshops and ‘think ins” But the event in Cardiff yesterday got me thinking about what energy and sustainability future do we want? Where are we now, what is our ambition and what will it take?

My impression of the opening session when Oil and LNG where summing up the global situation was “give up, don’t bother getting out of bed, its bigger than anything you can possibly imagine”.  No answers just a feeling of inevitability. My follow on feeling was that i was not sure when it happened but someone has put the lawyers and accounts in charge? No longer serving and enabling but sort of driving the show. The Leaders, innovators and enthusiasts seem to have been put in the passenger seat. From this sobering start some solution drivers started to gain a head of steam. It became obvious through the whole event that its not really a mater of science, economics and planning. But more about leadership. Setting the vision, highlighting and tackling the obstacles and then going for it. A fair amount of the day was focusing on the problems but we had snatched visions of what we could do. Its a scary future but…

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

My impression overall? I will go again to a “think-in”. But a small country can make a difference. It was not a 150 years ago when 90% of the industrial energy of the world came from Wales (steam coal). I have three young children and every now and then i think “what on earth am i subjecting their children to?” We have to do something. The hollow men are currently steering and this needs to change!

…this is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper. TS Eliot

Here endeth the sermon. But… there are some stellar examples out there of what can be achieved


Whats is my son’s energy future? I hope better than some on the council of despair were saying yesterday?

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How quickly does a hydro payback its carbon? There is a lot of steel and cement in there! NT Snowdon hydro reveals!

BXP60081We have been working with our partners at Bangor University under the auspices of the European funded project Hydro BPT  project. The University have recently undertaking one of the first detailed full Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of a High Head Hydro. There has been much talk in the press in terms of embedded energy vs generated energy. How much does it take to produce, install and operate a renewable energy system vs how much useful energy does it generate? In this form of energy accounting. “whats the pay back” is the question in terms of carbon? Up until a few days ago I could not tell you. I knew we were ‘ok’ but in data and facts I could not tell you.

The Hydro BPT project itself is looking at the harnessing of useful energy from the water industry through utilising something called the Break Pressure Tank (BPT). Instead of dissipating this useful energy through a tank because of un-needed pressure they have been researching its harnessing into low-carbon electricity. the project itself is revealing quite a bit of opportunity and also testing some of the technology. The National Trust are on the advisory group for the project along with Dwr Cymru.

lots and lots of detail in what makes up a high head hydro

lots and lots of detail in what makes up a high head hydro

The above graph illustrates the major carbon aspects of  the Hafod y Llan high head hydro. If we want to further decarbonise a hydro we should focus on the left hand side of the graph. Interestingly as well as building  the normal investment financial budget for future hydros the LCA tools also allows us additionally to build a carbon budget. BUT what is the payback I hear you say? On the Hafod y Llan hydro it’s under 7 months which is not bad for something which will probably be there for up to a 100 years! For more information about Hydro BPT please follow the link We are now waiting for the LCA results on the Hafod y Porth hydro. There arw quite a few differences in terms of build methodology on the Hafod y Llan system especially in prefabricating many of the components…lets see?Here is a summary of the main aspects and their payback. Thanks to Dr John Gallagher for all the hard work

Here is a summary of the main aspects and their payback. (two option in terms of generation 2 Gwh pa vs 1.9 Gwh). Thanks to Dr John Gallagher for all the hard work


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Plas Newydd marine source heat pump. Winner again!

Today was the Renewables UK Cymru 2014 awards. Cardiff was the venue and we were sharing the day with the NT team and Kimptons and Stiebel Eltron the suppliers and developer of the Plas Newydd heat pump. The National Trust were finalists under three categories. Energy advocate of the year, community support and finally best project. Having seen the finalists I did not hold out much hope! But it was a privilege sharing the day with such inspirational and in illustrious company. Winning the best project category especially when up against a project with an awful lot more zeros in the budget was a real surprise for all of us there. But we did… ! The Renewable Energy Investment Program is now really showing its metal. Both in cost and time benefit but also the industry in general also recognised our innovation and drive for quality.

Happy with a good result. Ron, John, Mike and Justin at the awards today

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Renewable energy generation. Combating climate change and also a victim of climate change?

Next to the road down to Hafod y Llan farm. more of this? what will it do to the hydro?

Next to the road down to Hafod y Llan farm. more of this? what will it do to the hydro?

The research side of our work carries on. We are working with quite a range of institutions. The latest being a PhD student from Sheffield who is looking into climate change impacts on hydro generation. Ernesto Pasten Zapata came up last week to look at the Hafod y Llan hydro and his PhD research will also include looking at what the medium to longer term future holds for our hydro in terms of modeling the catchment and impact on generation. LINK

“The purpose of this research is to assess the effects of future climate variability towards hydropower schemes. By estimating future rainfall, changes in the mean and variability of river flow will be simulated for a series of study catchments. Afterwards, the future efficiency of hydropower schemes located within the catchments will be evaluated and compared with their current efficiency. As hydropower schemes mainly rely on river flow, changes on its regime will inevitably influence the performance and efficiency of hydropower generation. Nowadays, the production of energy via environmentally friendly sources is a global trend. Therefore, an assessment of the hydropower scheme efficiency is important along with an analysis of future potential and feasibility. This project integrates approaches analysing climate variability, hydrological models and energy.”

Changing climate, changing rainfall patterns and so on WILL impact hydros but is it a case of more rain in the west of the country because warm air can hold more moisture or will it be a more boom and bust type affair. We have good data. Wallingford Hydro solutions and their LowFlow models are currently ideal tools for our planning but…what does what ‘if’ look like in the medium to long-term? Lets research!

We have agreed to take part in another more holistic ecological impact study of in-situ hydro systems. We all work to the precautionary principle but this can be honed and benchmarked as our understanding grows. Lastly (for now) also just fed data and opinions into the soon to be published community benefit study of hydros in an about to be published report by the Cardiff School of business…. and a bit more to come…!

Research and sharing and doing

The road from Beddgelert to the Farm was full of Audi's (well one in fact) Had to shuttle people to the meeting in our 4x4.

The road from Beddgelert to the Farm was full of Audi’s (well one in fact) Had to shuttle people to the meeting in our 4×4.

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Another hydro completed. National Trust Hafod y Porth 100kw hydro now generating…looking good as well!

Caynon runner (wheel) in a hydrolite case and spear valves (water jets). this is the first 100kw'r they have built

A Canyon runner (wheel) in a Hydrolite case and spear valves (water jets). This is the first 100kw’r they’ve built

Friday and it was G59 time. Or in non jargon it was the day Scottish Power the network / grid operator witness tested and signed off  the Hafod y Porth 100kw (or for accuracy Cathryn) 99.5kw hydro. Few hours later what happened? The heavens opened and we got proper rain and we were making renewable energy. Perfect! Its been a good project. John Millen, Wynne, NT Estate team, TGV Hydro, Hydrolite, GH Jones, Ellergreen Hydro, Datris made this happen. Some polishing left to do but looks like we are under budget and also have some lessons from this hydro to move on to the next one.

Our Pilot projects are now all coming to completion within the Renewable energy Investment program. (Plas Newydd, Croft Castle, and now Hafod y Porth completed) only weeks to go for Stickle Ghyll Hydro and Ikworth Biomass… and then? We evaluate and hopefully move into some serious renewables early next year.

Dave, Rhys, Aron... have the polish out getting the finish we want. not so much polish as drystone walls, seeding, gates, fences and the list goes on

The  Rangers and estate team Dave, Rhys, Aron… have the polish out getting the finish we all want. Not so much polish as dry-stone walls, seeding, gates, fences and the list goes on

The prefab weir bedding in nicely into its environmental. few more months and it will disappear into the background

The prefab weir bedding in nicely into its environmental. A few more months and it will disappear into the background

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Quick film about the National Trust Trial of the the all Electric Land Rover on Snowdon

See what we think. Oh I think I am one of the ‘stunt’ hands in the film. Famous at last! we are also up on Snowdon again today looking at conservation shepherding and the hydros. Probably take the Electric Land Rover! (still feels weird but growing on me)


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