Our guide to renewable energy

We're using a variety of renewable energy schemes where it does not compromise the special qualities of a place. Using appropriate technology at an appropriate scale we can generate energy to make all of the places we look after more useful and beautiful.

Here’s our guide to the different ways you can generate power:

    Solar photovoltaics (PV)

    Solar panels at Hanbury Hall

    Take a look at your neighbour’s roof and you might spot a PV panel. They work on the ground too and can even be integrated into roofs as tiles.

    How do they work? They use the sun’s rays to generate electricity for use at the place that they’re fitted, or to export to the grid.
    PV uses solar energy to generate electricity for use on site or export to the grid. Typical energy generation might be around 500 watts per 1 metre panel.

    Read why one 78-year-old woman decided to invest her life savings into PV and what she’s gained two years on.

    Solar thermal

    The setting sun in the snow at Stowe

    This nifty scheme uses the sun’s heat to warm up water. It does this by heating a cold liquid in a closed pipe loop, which circulates within a hot water storage tank (it doesn’t come into contact with the water).

    Did you know? It doesn’t need to be a bright sunny day for this to work, but the system can be less efficient.

    Wind turbines

    Wind turbine, Brancaster Millennium Activity Centre

    The clue’s in the name but wind turbines are powered by… wind.

    They come in all shapes and sizes, from small scale to large and vertical or horizontal blades. We use small scale wind turbines to power our coastguard lookout at the Gower and our scout hut at Brownsea.

    Read why we decided to object to the Atlantic Array wind proposal.


    Hafod-y-Llan-weir Snowdon hydro project

    Hydro systems have been used for centuries. At Aberdulais Falls, the water wheel was used for milling. Now, it’s the largest electricity generating water wheel in Europe.

    Did you know? You’ll need permission from the Environment Agency and neighbouring landowners if you want to build a hydro turbine. The location of your turbine will depend on water flow, height and environmental restrictions.

    We’re building our first large-scale hydro at Hafod y Llan farm in Snowdonia. Read about this project.

    Heat pumps

    Heat in the air, ground or water can be very useful for powering places.

    How does it work? Ambient heat is collected by pipework or an extractor. This heat is then ramped up with something called a heat exchanger - basically a fridge in reverse. From there it’s taken to an underfloor or radiator heating system. Which all sounds a bit complicated?

    Not according to our environmental advisor, Tony Price: ‘once they’re in, they just sit in the corner and work,’ he says.

    Read about our heat pump at Fountains Abbey.


    Biomass boiler

    Biomass is the use of biological materials – for example plants – for fuel. It’s nothing new to burn wood for heating, but technology today makes this far more efficient for your home.

    We look to use wood grown on our own estates for heating, so we can use less oil. The part of the tree that can’t be turned into furniture can be used for fuel – either as logs for smaller systems or chips for large systems.

    Read about our biomass boiler project with Good Energy at Acorn Bank.