The plaudits for Plas Newydd Marine Source Heat Pump coming through thick and fast

News-40-Business-Green-Leaders-Awards-2015-clay-plasters-clayworks-interiors-architecture1The Plas Newydd Marine Source Heat Pump, which is part of the National Trust’s Renewable Energy Investment Program has in the last week received two new National Awards in recognition of its ground breaking design and delivery. One award from the sustainability industry  was in the shape of “Outstanding project of the year” at this years UK Business Green Leaders award (this is the second year running we have won this category. Last year it was the Hafod y Llan Snowdon hydro) Also a big well done to our very own Paul Southall for also winning the energy champion category. think he should consider leaving his bow tie one all the time!

The second award for Plas Newydd Marine Source Heat Pump was by public vote in last nights 2degrees award again in another glittering award ceremony in London. To paraphrase a certain Michael Cane “I think were going to need a bigger cabinet” Link the award was for the best retrofit. See… you can teach an old dog new tricks (Plas Newydd that is!)

Emma Guthrie… quite pleased with Plas Newydd’s Success. Image smiley Mike Hudson!

We were also asked to do something clever and inspirational for the 2degrees award with a box of random Lego. We adults had a go and after a few hours of work we came up with “a random pile of Lego” I then gave the Lego to my son who came up with about 14 different things. “if something seems impossible (climate change) then give it to the young because they don’t know what impossible means!”

Doing the impossible comes naturally to the young! Tryfan making stuff!

Doing the impossible comes naturally to all children! Tryfan making stuff!

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Economic and Social Impact of small and community Hydro… and also #ihaveastream invitation

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 21.09.22This is my 500th blog. “Feels like more” I hear you say. But I can’t think of a more fitting blog to celebrate this event. The publishing this week of the Economic and Social Impact of Small and Community Hydro in Wales report. We played a very small part in this by providing data on our hydros to Prof Calvin Jones of the Cardiff Business School.(good coffee shop selector!)  we provided the raw data around the how much breakdown and detail but also the how productive bit. You may also recognise images in the report. It’s a really good piece on the multiplier effect of micro hydros which I think is as relevant to charities like ourselves as much as communities. Income circulation for social, environmental and also the clear jobs benefits. The Guardian ran an article on this today. Compelling

“New research by Cardiff Business School points to a potential economic windfall from micro-hydro. On the basis of existing installations, researchers estimate that every 1MW of community-owned micro-hydro installed generates an additional 10 full-time equivalent jobs in every year of its operation. This, again, is significantly ahead of other generation technologies, including the next-best performer, community-owned solar photovoltaics, generating 3.3 full-time jobs per 1MW installed.”

Add on to the this the research work we helped  Bangor University on the Carbon payback and whole life aspect of a micro hydro and the positives of a well designed and installed system in the right place are very compelling. Lets hope the Rt Hon Amber Rudd (DECC) in her current Feed in Tariff deliberations considers the whole picture.

If you want to know more than why not come to the Royal Welsh Show next week and have a chat with us, community energy developer and suppliers. 22nd of July #Ihaveastream 

A hydro is for life not just for FIT!

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Initial feedback from the Phone App’ energy control at an NT holiday cottage… ’tis good!

Blog from Alex Turret Environmental Practices Advisor who is leading on a pilot for remote control of energy systems at our holiday cottages. Previous Blog 

The C16 site for the trial. Egryn

As with any pilot project, particularly one on an unknown quantity such as an old listed building, not everything went entirely smoothly with the installation at Egryn Abbey. For example, it was found that to fit controls to the lighting circuit as originally planned would be too invasive and complicated in the sensitive environment that is this National Trust holiday cottage. However, after a certain amount of trial and error the fuel sensor and remote boiler controls have been fitted and the comms link activated. We will be monitoring the performance of the equipment over the next few months but I caught up with the victim (sorry, beneficiary) of our bright idea to discuss the potential advantages the project might provide. Georgina Ward, the National Trust’s holiday cottage supervisor for North Wales has some 40+ locations to manage spread from Powis near Welshpool on  to Anglesey at the very tip of North West Wales. I asked her what she was looking for from the project: ‘One of my biggest fears is that I will run out of fuel at a holiday cottage, this could cause me to lose guests or bookings and could easily cost the National Trust a lot of money every time this happens.  This keeps me awake at nights, but having the fuel sensor at Egryn has enabled me to know exactly how much fuel there is in the tank and to order fresh supplies in plenty of time. It has removed a huge potential risk for me and given me real oversight and control of my fuel ordering. Having remote control of the heating system also allows me to be more reactive and efficient there too. For example as standard the heating/hot water is set to come on twice a day which is unnecessary if the cottage is not fully booked. I can now override that setting remotely and save fuel costs. On the other hand in the winter if the weather is particularly bad I can run the heating over the top of the frost settings and keep the house fully warm, potentially saving me a fortune in plumbing costs from burst pipes. Perhaps the biggest wins though are in staff costs and visitor enjoyment. Currently I am relying on caretakers to make special journeys to check fuel levels or put on the heating system and turn on a welcoming light, these visits we have to fund outside of their standard hours which clearly impacts my staffing budget. In terms of the visitors and their enjoyment of the holiday cottages these enhanced controls will make their visits even more welcoming and comfortable and will provide an extra layer of security to help avoid any inconvenient occurrences. ‘ It seems that potentially the project ticks a lot of boxes in terms of managing our holiday cottages. However, the proof as they say, is in the pudding and only a few months of operation will provide us with a definitive assessment of whether the project is a success or otherwise. However it does look as if this very modern approach to a historic problem might pay dividends in the busy and pressurised environment of holiday cottage management.

the phone app’ in question. Georgina now manages the energy better with better information and data

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Do you want vinegar with that? Home insulating progressing. After the detail comes… more detail!

scaffold down. mid painting. slight change in colour. the render and paint is a silicone system (time will tell!) you can see the capping on the gable insulation (time will tell!) Overall i am happy with the finish. now back to the detailing

Scaffold down. Mid painting. Slight change in colour! The render and paint is a silicone system (time will tell!) you can see the capping on the gable insulation (time will tell!) Overall I am happy with the finish. Now back to the detailing. The Wilmot Dixon project management is without fault

the clever stuff. replacing the rotting stuff with something else and ending up with stable wood and vinegar type stuff (acetic acid)

The vinegar reference refers to acetylation or the process where fairly cheap fast grown FSC timber is transformed into a stable and long-lasting (50yr life) construction grade timber. Why am a saying this? The outside of my house is now insulated and I have to go the next step which is to order my new triple glazed timber windows. I could not justify (for justify read afford) the five-figure sum for the Scandinavian style stuff (there are manufactures in the UK who make passive house standard windows) I wanted a sustainable  sub U1.2 thermally performing window but also wanted to avoid plastics and such like (another blog there) Having seen a couple of houses locally built with windows made from Accoya I wanted to know more. Accoya is the trade name for fast grown pine timber which is pressure treated with acetic anhydrite and the process has a byproduct of a acetic acid from the process. (all natural like) Think vinegar on your chips type of thing (replacing the hydroxyl molecules… or the bit which accelerates the decaying.  Accoya calls the timber virtually rot proof ). The stuff even lasts a minimum of 25 years when in water. There is something here for our huge plantations of fast grown pine which could be put to better, low-carbon use rather than pulped… hmm. I will let you know in 2065 if it doesn’t last!!The windows and front door are being made by a local company Williams Homes in Bala(the ones who built the new Penrhyn Castle Visitor building) using all the latest warm edge, argon filled glazing units with the now standard multi closing mechanisms. The stability in the timber will be a huge advantage in my stormy, wet, cold, hot, humid, windy area of Snowdonia for draft proofing and overall performance. 4 weeks to go until d-day (delivery!) Oh and the cost? Exactly the same as the UPVC quotes I got!

details, details or actually big holes. starting to sort the ventilation aspect of the house. Bathroom next after the main living room.

Details, details or actually big holes in my 1.1m thick stone walls. Starting to sort the ventilation aspect of the house. Bathroom next after the main living room.

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Greening Greenhouses. Guest Blog @simonbrammer


GUEST BLOG – Simon Brammer from the Ashden Awards and Fit for the Future Network. all round good egg!

Just one of the beautiful outdoor rooms of flowers at Woolbeing Gardens.

Just one of the beautiful outdoor rooms of flowers at Woolbeing Gardens.

You would imagine that a greenhouse was a wholesome place. It is after all where plants are propagated and nurtured; where new life is born. However, there is a dark side to all this wholesomeness: energy. Greenhouses can demand huge amounts of energy in order to maintain ideal growing conditions. However, there is a way to make them much more sustainable.

The Fit for Future Network set up by Ashden and the National Trust, went on an investigative visit to Woolbeding Gardens last week. This is the most spectacular garden. Outdoor room after outdoor room of tastefully colour-themed planting is displayed against the backdrop of gently rolling pasture, a beautiful house and the bubbling River Rother.

The visit was not, of course, for our viewing pleasure, although great it was. It was to investigate how we could help Woolbeding Gardens be more sustainable in replacing and refurbishing some of its aging greenhouses and help them to kick their unwanted fossil fuel habit. The greenhouses are currently heated by an old oil boiler and despite the gardening team’s gallant efforts to reduce heat loss, such as thermal blinds or wrapping entire greenhouses in bubble wrap for the winter they still remain costly to run.

One of the greenhouses – using simple shading to help keep it cool.

One of the greenhouses – using simple shading to help keep it cool.

It turns out that the Gardens have a slightly overwhelming choice of possible renewable energy sources. A lake that could house a water-source heat pump, a paddock that could do the same and space for a solar PV array that wouldn’t detract from the sheer beauty of the surrounds. There was even an old water-wheel still working connected to a beam pump that will be considered to help irrigate the gardens in a more sustainable way.

The trick in making all these costly installations work is what the Fit for Future Network is really good at: connecting people and experience. So the next step, now the initial fact-finding visit is complete, is to whittle down the options by enabling the owner, their contractors and the Head Gardener to visit a few ‘ahead-of-the-curve’ greenhouses in other National Trust properties to ‘download’ all their learning. In this way, we can help Woolbeding avoid any costly mistakes and be confident the new systems will provide the perfect growing environment to keep the gardens both beautiful and sustainable for years to come.

Many thanks to Keith Jones and Paul Southall for their invaluable advice and enthusiasm.


The sustainable energy team.

Woolbeding Gardens is open every Thursday and Friday until 25 September 2015 – advance bookings only – I can promise you, you won’t be disappointed.

Lettuce as art.

Lettuce as art!!








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As the old saying goes “Those that can’t teach… lecture” (me) Thanks to Bangor University for an honour

We have been working with Bangor University now for some 15 years on various projects, hosting students, partnering on European projects, lecturing to groups, organising visits, research steering groups, hosting internships and also ending up employing a fair amount of the students. Last week Bangor University were kind enough to award me the title of ‘honorary lecturer’ in the School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography. But as my line manager said last week. ‘Keith lectures everybody and so no change there then!’ (that hurt!). Thanks to the fantastic people i work with in the University who put me forward for the honour. shucks I don’t know what to say (Yes I must be ill)

cheesy grin

cheesy grin


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Bullet has been bit… After a lot of trailing, testing and infrastructure instillation we have the first EV (Snowdonia)

this city car is not quite in the city! we grow the fuel for it on the farm (PV and small hydro)

This city car is not quite in the city! We grow the fuel for it on the farm (PV and small hydro) we will let you know how it goes!

This morning and it was Snowdon again with our esteemed colleagues from up North or some of the general managers from the Lake District to give them their official title. I was there to talk renewables… but The Snowdonia property have just taken delivery of their new and perfectly formed Volkswagen E-UP (not sure if there is a Yorkshire connection?) The brand new Electric Vehicle is there to move people around the property. Gone is the small and unreliable diesel van and here is a vision in black. Silent, efficient and cool! (not like me on any points) We now have 36 EV charge points thanks to Zero Carbon Uk around our properties in Wales (quite a few more planned). This i hope is the start of the shift. The car will be used as a hub vehicle to move people to the tip of Llyn or across to Ysbyty Ifan and down to Merionethshire.

Range, power and charging. Not quite revs, fuel and oil pressure. New

Range, power and charging. Not quite revs, fuel and oil pressure. New

Oh and HE had to have a go. (just after me!) smooth (the car not John)

Oh and HE had to have a go. (just after me!) smooth (the car not John)

was a soggy, sunny, rainy and spectacular day with the team from up North. Sharing our experiences. Ps can you see the hydro instal? No!

was a soggy, sunny, rainy and spectacular day with the team from up North. Sharing our experiences. Ps can you see the hydro instal? No!

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