Castle heralds a victory over fossil fuels in Wales

Welsh Assembly members gathered outside the new biomass boiler at Penrhyn Castle

When it comes to powering its cottages, castles and countryside sites, National Trust Wales has a bright, clean and green future.

The last of our large properties has turned off its oil-fired heating system and fired up a more eco-friendly biomass boiler. It means we're a huge step closer to supplying 100% of our own energy in Wales from renewable sources – cutting carbon emissions and saving money to fuel vital conservation work.

Penrhyn Castle near Bangor now stands alongside our other special places right across the country running on renewable fuel. From Stackpole in Pembrokeshire to Plas Newydd on Anglesey, sites are harnessing biomass, hydro-electricity, heat pumps and solar power to produce their own energy.

Marking a milestone

To mark this milestone, Welsh Assembly members visited Penrhyn Castle to see the new biomass boiler system in action for the first time, and learn more about our other pioneering energy projects across Wales.

Justin Albert, National Trust Director for Wales, says: “Renewable energy in Wales has been around for a long while, but this is the first time that such a nationally-co-ordinated approach has been taken on its development with the emphasis it places on good practice and helping conservation.

“The weather and climate has played a big part in creating our special place in Wales and also makes them a challenge to maintain, with leaking roofs and huge costs to keep then dry and warm for visitors to enjoy. But the Welsh weather and environment can also be one of our strongest assets through tapping in to renewable energy generation.

“The income we generate and the money we save allows us to start putting more cash into our castles, cottages and conservation, and it allows us to do our bit for the benefit of these special places, and the planet, without compromising why we love these places so much.”

Playing our part

In the National Trust we have a strategy to cut the use of fossil fuels and save money on energy bills, which can be invested back into conserving the nation’s special places. To do this we’ve committed to meeting 50% of our energy needs from renewable sources by 2020 by conserving energy, growing our own electricity and heat, and getting off oil.

In Wales we’re playing our part in this mission by embracing projects to generate renewable energy, working alongside local people, government agencies and the scientific community; and in partnership with the Trust’s renewable power supplier Good Energy.

It’s nothing new. Burning wood for warmth is as old as the hills and Wales has a long history of water power too. Our energy team is updating these old technologies as well as developing new ones such as solar energy and ground source heat pumps, where it is appropriate and in the right location.

A grand unveiling

At Penrhyn Castle we've invested £400,000 in the new biomass system which will heat around 100 rooms at the vast, Victorian gothic mansion. It will cut carbon emissions and save around £3,000 a year in heating bills, which will be invested back into conservation.

Welsh Assembly Members officially opened the biomas boiler on November 24 as part of a tour of our North Wales energy projects; including Bwthyn Ogwen cottage, Cwm Idwal, where we're developing a ground source heat pump which will also be part of a trial supplying local energy in the valley.

Keith Jones, NT Wales Environmental Practices Advisor, says: “Penrhyn is the last major site the National Trust has in Wales on oil heating; that’s a major shift in the last five years. We are now working on getting rid of the remaining 12% of oil in NT Wales, and looking towards a completely oil-free future at our special places.”