The UK’s National Trust conservation and heritage charity has successfully trialled a new hydro turbine at Hafod y Porth in Snowdonia.
The National Trust’s aim in developing the technology is to explore new ways of overcoming the challenges of building renewable energy projects on significant and extreme weather-prone places. The turbine is the Trust’s first hydro technology to be pre-fabricated off site before being transferred and assembled on location. It is the third project in the £3.5million pilot phase of the charity’s ambitious Renewable Energy Investment (REI) Programme, launched last year in conjunction with the renewable electricity supplier Good Energy.
The team developing the Hafod y Porth hydro are working with researchers from the Hydro-BPT project at Bangor University to calculate the carbon footprint of the installation and expect it to balance its energy investment in less than a year of being in operation. The turbine has a capacity of just under 100kW, a cost of £550,000 and an anticipated payback of around six years. The electricity generated by the turbine will be sold via the Grid to the 100 per cent renewable electricity supplier and the National Trust’s energy partner, Good Energy. Money raised from the project will be ploughed back into conservation projects in Snowdonia, such as footpath repairs and rhododendron control.
“We do get a lot of unpredictably wet weather in Snowdonia” said Keith Jones, National Trust Environmental Practices Advisor. “This can be great when the hydro is in, but it’s not ideal for construction – a couple of flash floods can wash away days of hard work. By pre-fabricating components off site we’re removing a lot of these risks, reducing our carbon footprint and driving down our overall costs.”
Constructing the components off site gave the team a greater level of control over the installation of the weir which has been sensitively crafted into the beautiful and historic landscape near to Dinas Emrys, a scheduled ancient monument and legendary birthplace of Wales’ national emblem, the Red Dragon.
Other pilot projects in the Trust’s REI programme that have now been completed are an award winning 300kW marine source heat pump at Plas Newydd on Anglesey and a 199kW biomass boiler at Croft Castle in Herefordshire. The remaining two schemes, a 100kW hydro turbine at Sticklebarn Tavern in Great Langdale and a 199kW biomass boiler at Ickworth in Suffolk, will be launched early next year.
If the pilot phase is successful, the Trust is expected to develop 43 renewable energy projects, helping the charity to halve fossil fuel use and generate 50 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. It will also save the charity around £4million each year, to fund more conservation projects. A decision on the full REI programme is likely to be made in Spring 2015.