Its good to talk – South West visits Croft castle

croftThings are moving on apace with our Renewable Energy Programme –

  • Plas Newydd Heat Pump system is doing its thing, and performing better than calculated.
  • Hafod Y Porth hydropower system is generating nicely thank you.
  • Stickle Ghyll hydropower similarly.
  • Ickworth House biomass heating project moves into delivery phase shortly.

Our fifth pilot biomass project at Croft Castle, completed last summer, played host to property teams from the South West region of the Trust in order for them (and me) to gain a greater understanding of whats involved in delivering a biomass heating project, as well as whats involved in operating it following project completion and handover to the property.sharing experiences

Ed (project Manager) together with David (General Manager for Croft Castle) outlined the origins of the project, explaining the business case for progression and how the scheme was one part of the wider Renewables Programme with the aim of meeting our committment to generate 50% of our energy needs from renewables.

We then linked up with the Head Ranger to discuss woodfuel production and management, and to see for ourselves the size and scale required to feed the boiler.size and scale

It was good to put into context just what 80 tonnes of timber looks like (“is it a wheelbarrow full, or a pick up size?”), discussion on sustainable yield, staff capacity, opportunity costs, storage all followed with some good questions being raised on “what it will mean for me?”ta dah



From here we carried on to the large woodchip store area – Ed was very proud of this area – and again we could all see a great example of a fit for purpose chipping, storage and loading area which does not impact on the visitor enjoyment of the property.


A really valuable day, raising lots of questions and discussion. Many thanks to Ed and the property team for organising.

I have a feeling more visits will be following on from this.







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Secretary of state likes our heat pump! Ashden Award at the houses of Parliament yesterday

ashden-Ed-DaveyMr Southall and Mr Jones were back at the houses of Parliament (as you do) as guests of the Ashden Award yesterday. The Rt Hon Zac Goldsmith was sponsoring the event with Ashden to show case the work that some of the 170 winners of the  over the last 14 years have and are doing. (amazing stuff and it’s some big numbers. Ashden). Ed Davey the secretary of state for the environment had the key-note speech gave the National Trust a glowing report card on our energy efficiency work and we found yesterday evening is a big fan of water source heat pumps. So much so he cut his speech short to mention Plas Newydd’s marine source heat pump. The Founder of the Ashden Awards Sarah Butler-Sloss gave a personal account of her journey to initiate the awards and how the awards winners have to date helped over 45 million people round the world.

On a personal note Paul and I still take part in the Ashden network events. It’s like an ideas cauldron. The art of the possible is the key thread. So many people want to make a difference and don’t complain about the problems around us but are rolling their sleeves up and doing something about it!

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Worlds end. Renewables in the steam age. Beam Engines and some deep thinking

Lonely, eery, inspiring and now posing another opportunity? The Lavant Tin Mine at the end of the world in Cornwall

Lonely, eery, inspiring and now posing another opportunity? The Levant Tin Mine at the end of the world in Cornwall

The second day of the South West visit was at the kind request of Emma Jones and Anthony Power to look at the options around the Levant Tin mine right at the end of Cornwall. (I keep forgetting how far the SW bit of Britain is…its far!) But the journey was worth it. What a place to be when a SW storm is blowing in off the Atlantic. We were perched high up the cliff with the cold cutting wind driving straight through us. The boom of atlantic rollers testing the huge granite cliffs and a forest of smoke stacks from bygone industry littering the coast. It was one of those “I will remember this for a long time” moments. Oh and the purpose of the visit? with a 180MWh oil bill to create the steam for the last ‘original’ steam driven Cornish beam engine pump to pay per annum this was both a challenge and an opportunity. David our colleague had pointed us in the options direction and I was there to look at an unusual one. A hydro! yes that right a high head coastal hydro. Anthony has been looking at the  large Victorian drainage system along the coast and also looked at the 1000ft shaft they have (150ft of which is not under the sea) and he wondered if there was an option to look at generating electricity? There could be, but his first job is to make sure there is enough constant water flow to then look at the options. We also looked at pre heating the water for steam using the sea water in the shaft using a heat pump or harvesting heat from the condensing pipe on the steam engine. plenty of options it’s now a mater of crunching some numbers. But what a place!

You must visit! Like grave stone along the coast. The smoke stacks for long gone tin mines

You must visit! Like industrial monuments along the coast. The smoke stacks from long gone tin mines

nothing beats cast iron. the last in-situe original cornish steam beam engine

Nothing beats cast iron. the last in-situe original Cornish steam beam engine

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Popping down to the South West to help and learn renewables from colleagues. The Welsh Pasty addicts

The gardens at Cotehele. Now thats a view!

The gardens at Cotehele. Now that’s a view!

Its been a few sunny, snowy, thundery, rainy days down in Devon and Cornwall. As part of our wider heat and hydro remit in the National Trust Paul and I spent a few days in Cornwall and Devon looking, discussing and sharing as part of the overall National Trust Renewable Energy Program. The first full day was down to Cotehele with our colleague David to have a look-see around the heating needs of the mansion. For Paul it was Biomass, heat pumps and such like but I was there for another reason which was to see the recent addition to the National Trust hydro ‘fleet’. Although its been in for a few years it was my first chance to see the 7kw crossflow turbine at the old mill site at Cotehele. Stephen who looks after the small and perfectly formed the system is justifiably proud as the system uses the water from the mill leat when the mill-wheel is not turning . The generated electricity is supplied to the Mill and anything left is exported. They have a simple mechanical leaf clearing system on the intake but like most systems under trees it needs managing and adapting as you learn (I don’t care what the salesman tells you!). From Cotehele it was then down to the very tip on the South West to see a pretty special place (Like all of them!) More on this later but it involves cast iron, under sea tunnels and stunning views!

small and perfectly formed. 7kw crossflow. But its has to be choked back to 5 Kw because of the local grid challenge.

small and perfectly formed. 7kw crossflow. But its has to be choked back to 5 Kw because of the local grid challenge.

the old mill wier with the new fish pass built by the ranger team in the background. One of the best i have seen in terms of fitting in with its setting

The old mill weir with the new fish pass built by the ranger team in the background. One of the best I have seen in terms of fitting in with its setting

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what was our sustainability 2014 like. review of the year

Quite a good year all in all!

Quite a good year all in all!

now that i have got over the shock of my email inbox having been off for a few weeks its a good time for Paul and myself to look at what was delivered by the team in National Trust Wales in 2014

renewables –

  • Hafod y Llan 660kw hydro completed
  • Plas Newydd 300 kw Marine Source Heat Pump completed
  • Hafod y Porth 100kw hydro completed
  • Gorsen 15 kw hydro completed
  • (two others have gained planning permission in the last year)
  • Biomass feasibility completed for Bodnant and Dyffryn Garden

Community energy projects  on going technical support and guidance

  • Anafon hydro
  • Bethesda Hydro
  • Waenfawr Hydro
  • Llanberis Hydros and PV
  • Llandegai Hydro
  • Anglesey energy groups

Awards 2014

  • Green Blog of the year
  • Outstanding project of the year (Hafod y Llan hydro) Business Green Leaders
  • Outstanding project of the  year. Plas Newydd Marine source heat pump (Renewables UK Wales)
  • Green Apple (Environmental Management)
  • International Climate change award for our hydro support work
  • Inspire Wales award. Environmentalist of the year

Advisory groups we support

  • Community Energy Fund steering group
  • Ynni’r Fro Design Group
  • DECC Heat Pump evaluation group
  • Dwr Cymru advisory group
  • Natural Resources Wales Hydro stake holder group

Fit for the future

  • Scotland workshop
  • Scottish Canals networking
  • National Trust for Scotland
  • BIG 3 renewables event
  • Electric Vehicles event at Chirk Castle

2015 looks to be even more full on than 2014. The building blocks are in place for an exciting, challenging and fun year. Paul was invited last week to be part of the Chartered Institute for Building surveyors working group developing guidance for heat pumps. My work will also be interesting at the end of next month as i embark on something new and exciting. More as ever to come!



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Seven months later, and business as usual (better actually) – Plas Newydd Marine Source Heat Pump


plasnewyddIt’s been seven months to the day from the “switch on” of the 300kw marine source heat pump system at Plas Newydd on Anglesey. We are now into full heating season operation, and have completed a fantastically busy summer at the property. So thought I would stop by and assess how well the system is doing before I go into mince pie overload.Grounds

Firstly, I took a walk down to the foreshore and was pleased that despite the disruption caused by the construction of a crane lifting platform earlier in the year; the grounds have recovered nicely and thanks to the efforts of the property gardens team have softened around the edges to ensure that as we proceed into the new year our visitors will be able to fully enjoy the historic viewpoint across the Menai Strait opened up once more in order to place the pump-house on the foreshore.talking

The project has had a huge amount of interest and Keith and I spent the summer showing people the technology as well as the National Trust approach to the integration of appropriate sustainable solutions which is the basis of our REI programme across the organisation.

As with every new system, we were required to “fettle” in order to make it as efficient as possible in operation, but thanks to my trusty assistant, we have settled into full operation nicely and our understanding of the conservation heating needs of the mansion is paying dividend as the previously “cooked mansion” is now taking full advantage of the consistent lower flow temperatures of the heat pumps and thermal mass of the building to ensure we maintain our sensitive building and its contents in-line with our accredited museum requirements.jac

The national Trust utilises heat to manage relative humidity within our buildings working within a range of 40% to 65% RH. You can see from the screen capture that only the medieval cellar areas have dipped below the 40% line. This was always going to be the challenging area as the cellars are extensive and by their very nature difficult to manage and control. Our preventative conservation specialist visited last Thursday and was extremely pleased with the monitoring being much improved on previous results, and consistent across the property (the wiggly lines follow the same pattern – see I am technical).Relative humidity monitoring at Plas Newydd

Finally, how are we doing performance wise?Performance to date

As you can see the system is performing better than calculated. To date we have a cumulative CoP of over 4 (the system was designed to achieve 3.4). When you take into account seasonal variations and factors such as circulation pumps operating even during the summer, as we heat our mansions during the summer as well in order to control relative humidity, we continue to perform above calculated with an SPF of 2.8.

What does this mean for the property itself – A sustainable conservation heating system which allows greater control and protection of our buildings and contents; A new chapter in the story of this special property and its maritime history; and for those of you who cut to the chase – an operational saving of £18,000 compared to the previous oil fired heating system. This is money that is now being allocated directly to conservation instead of simply paying the heating bill.

I think a celebratory mince pie is in order.


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…and the next hydro please. National Trust latest undertaking. Small and equally as powerful.

Photomontage of the proposed hydro intake. this is again in the confer woodland

Photomontage of the proposed Berthen hydro intake. This is again in the confer woodland

Last Tuesday and after 18 months of work we received planning permission for our latest 100kw hydro. The Berthen stream in Snowdonia near the small town of Bethesda should be generating 420Mwh per annum by the end of next year. Whats unusual about this hydro is the existence of a dense conifer block of woodland along the entire pipe route The woodland itself the NT are working on a long-term reversion to broad leaf. We are will be surface mounted hydro pipe through the dense plantation. The high head (208m of drop) means that the pipe will be quite a bit smaller than recent Hafod y Porth 100kw hydro (in terms of energy output for example if you double the drop or head (you increase the pressure) it will produce the same amount of energy as if you doubled the amount of water) what in essence this means is that for a much smaller amount of water we can generate the same amount of energy as the Hafod y Porth hydro because of this increased ‘head’. Dewi the area ranger is also looking into the possibility of using some of the larch on the plantation site to be used for constructing the very small turbine building. This project will mean good news for the Carneddau property. the additional long-term resources provided by this hydro will enable a lot more long terms conservation and access work to be developed As ever watch this space!

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