Green energy in Wales

Heather and rock outcrops at Hafod Y Llan farm

The landscape of Wales is as rich as its history and culture. This precious environment may now hold the key to protecting both our natural and built heritage.

For centuries the mountains, woodlands and waters of Wales have nourished its inhabitants and inspired generations of visitors. Now we’re unlocking the clean energy possibilities in that breath-taking landscape; harnessing the elemental resources of land, sea and sky to power our modern lives - and to look after the very special environment from which they spring.

It's nothing new. Burning wood to produce warmth and building mill wheels to harness water power are practices as old as the hills here in Wales. In the 21st century we’re updating these old technologies as well as introducing the use of new ones like solar power,

Keith Jones, environmental adviser for National Trust Wales, says: "Tapping into renewable energy makes business, conservation and environmental sense and our award-winning National Trust Wales team is paving the way for the rest of our organisation and others."

Aberdulais Tin Works and Waterfall - dating back to the 1500s, an old water wheel was rebuilt by students and apprentices of British Steel at Port Talbot in 1991.
Aberdulais waterwheel being built at local steel works
Aberdulais Tin Works and Waterfall - dating back to the 1500s, an old water wheel was rebuilt by students and apprentices of British Steel at Port Talbot in 1991.

In the National Trust we look after special places for ever, for everyone, and have made a commitment to doing that in a way which is friendly to the planet - our people, our landscape and our wildlife - now and in the future.

A cornerstone of this mission is dramatically reducing our use of fossil fuels to half by 2020. This will cut down on carbon emissions, make sites from castles to cottages more sustainable and save money to plough back into conservation work. Nationally, we aim to save an estimated £4million on energy bills each year and every penny will go towards safeguarding our nation’s inheritance, whether that’s restoring a painting or maintaining a meadow.

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. We're developing and supporting projects where they are appropriate and in the right location:

  • Solar photovoltaics (PV): Using the sun’s rays to generate electricity at the place they are fitted, or to feed into to the national grid - now fuelling the tearoom at Bodnant Garden, near Conwy, and the working farm at Llanerchaeron in Ceredigion.
  • Solar thermal: Heating a cold liquid in a closed pipe loop, which circulates within a hot water storage tank - helping heating the water at medieval Chirk Castle, near Wrexham.
  • Heat pumps: Harvesting ambient heat from earth, air or water, which is moved through a heat exchanger to an underfloor or radiator heating system - providing heat for the greenhouses at Powis Castle, Welshpool, and the mansion at Plas Newydd on Anglesey.
  • Hydro electricity: The age-old method of using the power of fast-flowing water to generate electricity – such as at the Aberdulais Tin Works and Waterfall and at Hafod y Llan in Snowdonia.
  • Biomass: An ancient method of burning plant material for fuel, made more efficient by modern technology - biomass boilers are now keeping the chill off the rooms of Penrhyn Castle, near Bangor, and the exotic glasshouse at Dyffryn Gardens at Cardiff.

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 environment of Wales, which makes our special places so unique, can be a bit of a challenge, but it might now be one of our strongest assets for generating renewable energy, without compromising these places we love so much."
- Keith Jones, Environmental Practices Adviser for National Trust Wales