Stunning solar leads the way for sensitively sustainable energy

Stunning solar array at Bodnant Garden leads the way for  sensitively sustainable energy at National Trust
Published : 19 Jun 2017 Last update : 23 Jun 2017

National Trust Wales picked up a major award for pioneering renewable energy that helps poor Welsh communities to slash their electricity bills and won a highly commended in another category at the British Renewable Energy Awards (BREA) on Thursday, June 15.

Our trailblazing work, installing renewable energy on our properties in Wales to make them sustainable, while being sensitive to their natural environmental beauty and surrounding communities saw our energy team shortlisted in the Pioneer, Community Group and Outstanding Project award categories at the glittering awards ceremony at The Savoy Hotel in London, for organisations that are driving the green agenda across the UK.

Keith Jones, National Trust Wales Environmental Adviser said: “We were thrilled to be nominated for three awards, and win the community energy award with Cyd Ynni and be highly commended for the main overall Pioneer Award.”


A network of five community energy companies, called Cyd Ynni (Energy Together), had been nominated for the Community Group Award. 


Keith stressed that there is nothing like Cyd Ynni in the UK.
He said the companies support each other to develop renewable energy projects and add value to them by cross-marketing shares, providing benefit to the fuel-poor local community, so that they can make their own electricity from hydro power and the plentiful Welsh rain.
“The organisation is based in the old slate valleys around Llanberis and Bethesda, in one of the poorest areas in Wales with some of the highest fuel poverty rates in UK and the oldest housing stock in Europe,” he said.

National Trust Wales collecting award from BBC's John Pienaar for pioneering renewable energy that helps poor Welsh communities to slash their electricity bills
National Trust Wales picked up a major award for pioneering renewable energy that helps poor Welsh communities to slash their electricity bills

“It has piloted and now operates the first end-to-end energy supply co-operative in the UK.
“One pilot in Bethesda is supplying local houses with local energy, saving householders on average 30% off their bills.”


The beautiful Bodnant Garden's solar array scheme worth £100,000, in which art meets engineering, was also a contender for the Outstanding Project Award. 


Keith explained: “The stunning 50kw solar system installed on a curved hillside on the Grade I listed Bodnant Garden in North Wales, is a first of its type for the National Trust.
 

Solar array scheme weaves its way around a myriad of oak trees at Bodnant Garden
An oak in the sun at Bodnant Garden, Conwy

“We took an informed gamble and draped the PV on half an acre of hillside, while ensuring that the system would be organic in form, super-efficient in practice and be an attraction in itself for the world-renowned garden's annual 250,000 visitors.


“It involved picking a cable route through the myriad of ancient oaks and using micro diggers and elbow grease to get the cable through


“Being listed on various websites with the Disney PV array and other globally significant systems, shows that we have done something special here.


“It has pricked the imagination of what is possible without having to spend millions of pounds.
“The PV system is now viewed as art and engineering, as it is draped on the hill. To quote one of the inspirational thinkers guiding the formation of the National Trust, William Morris, we should always aim for 'both beautiful and useful'.


“It has already been judged one of the top five PV systems in the world, purely on how it looks. So I think we have achieved our aim here. Observers say, 'well if they can do that there, then there is no excuse for the rest of us'.”


The BREA awards are selected by energy sector experts or peers in renewable energy generation.