Going off grid at Gibson Mill

A reflection of Gibson mill in the mill pond, on a wintery day

All our know-how and passion for renewable energy has come together at Gibson Mill, which is the first place in our care to be run entirely off grid. Bringing power to this 17th-century heritage site, hidden in a wooded valley at Hardcastle Crags, was far from easy.

Listen to our podcast to learn about the history of Gibson Mill and find out what you can do to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

We aim to produce 50 per cent of the energy we use from renewable sources by 2021, and places such as Gibson Mill are helping us to achieve this. Our team at Hardcastle Crags has reinstated a historic hydropower system, installed roof-mounted solar panels and a biomass boiler. We've also worked with our partner BMW i to improve the way the site stores energy.

Listen to our podcast on going off grid

The podcast was made possible thanks to the support of BMW i, the brand behind the all-electric BMW i3. As our partner, BMW i is not only allowing us to expand our network of electric vehicle charging points it is also helping us achieve our renewable energy ambitions by investing in groundbreaking projects at National Trust places.

Gibson Mill in Hardcastle Crags in run entirely of the grid

Going off grid 

Gibson Mill, which is at the heart of Hardcastle Crags, was one of the UK’s first mills to power the Industrial Revolution. Fast forward 200 years and it now stands as the first renewable place in our care that’s run completely off the grid. This episode reveals that this journey has been far from easy. Power shortages affect the availability of food and drinks and the worm toilets took some getting used to. Despite these challenges Gibson Mill has won several sustainability awards and inspired many other National Trust places on their journey to a low-carbon future.

50% renewable: Going off grid

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What's a tonne of carbon?

  • 452 litres of petrol
  • 15 months' electricity supply for an average British home
  • Carbon stored in a 40-year-old oak tree
  • Enough paper to print 52 copies of the entire Harry Potter series
  • A one-way economy flight from London to Dallas
  • 57 nights in an average British hotel

Source: DEFRA emissions factors, in combination with some standard assumptions and research. 

Doing your bit

Gibson Mill: a history of innovation

Since the restoration of Gibson Mill started in 2005, we’ve made several exciting green energy milestones, which has brought this 17th-century mill into the 21st century. We worked with renewable energy firm Dulas to restore and reinstate the cotton mill’s original hydro turbine. 

Today water turbines and roof-mounted solar panels provide almost all the power for the site and café. A biomass boiler, fed with sustainably-sourced woodchip, provides hot water. Food waste is composted on-site and tiger worms are used to compost waste from the toilets. 

With no connection to the National Grid, energy is stored in batteries for when it's needed most. But just like household rechargeable batteries, they lose their ability to store as much power over time, and at times there’s been insufficient power to fully run the café.

 

Discover a history of innovation at Gibson Mill
Video

An inspirational story of green energy

Watch this video to find out how Gibson Mill generates its energy off grid and processes its waste in an environmentally friendly way.

Our work with BMW i 

BMW i is committed to creating a more sustainable future and makes use of many of the renewable energy technologies that we do.

BMW i has brought its expertise Gibson Mill, where it helped the team there to replace an ageing battery system. This means more of the energy generated from its hydro systems and solar panels can be stored and used when it's needed. This means the mill can still offer the full menu at our café on days when it’s cloudy or the river is low. 

Our partnership with BMW i also means we can invest even more in renewable energy projects, and make travel to the places we care for more sustainable by expanding our network of electric vehicle charging points.