Sea change in charity’s energy policy

Visitors to Plas Newydd mansion in Wales will soon be given an affordably warm welcome
Image: Nick Meers/National Trust

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE A British conservation charity is harnessing new technology and renewable energy to heat a 300-year-old mansion, helping to save money and move away from fossil fuel use  LONDON, 25 May − You’re responsible for a historic building, and you’re finding the heating bills an increasing burden? There’s a fairly simple answer − so long as you live near the sea, that is. Plas Newydd, an 18th-century mansion on the coast of North Wales, is switching to renewable energy supplied by an inexhaustible source – the waters of the Irish Sea, fed by the vast amounts of energy generated by the Atlantic Ocean. The house is in the care of the National Trust, the charity responsible for the care of historic houses and countryside across England, Wales and Northern Ireland (a separate body does the work in Scotland). Plas Newydd, which means “new house” in Welsh, was formerly the Trust’s biggest oil consumer. In winter months, it sometimes burned around 1,500 litres of oil a day – as much as a typical house would use in 10 months.

Heat exchanger

Now it is to be heated by an energy system that pumps a small amount of sea water from the Menai Strait, between the Isle of Anglesey – on which Plas Newydd stands − and the Welsh mainland, through pipes to and from a heat exchanger on the shore, and then 30 metres up the cliff face to the mansion’s boiler house. The system uses a 300kW marine source heat pump – one of the first in the UK – and cost £600,000 ($1,012,410) to install. But it is expected to save the Trust around £40,000 ($67,500) a year in operating costs. It will provide all the power needed to heat the house, including a cricket pavilion on the estate. The estate is also powered by clean electricity through a 50kW solar array, which the Trust says has encouraged more than 150,000 orchids to flourish. The mansion itself is working to improve its energy efficiency and has cut its consumption by more than 40% so far through improved heating management. Adam Ellis-Jones, the Trust’s assistant director for operations in Wales, said: “With the Irish Sea right on the doorstep of Plas Newydd, a marine source heat pump is the best option for us.

“Being a pioneer is never easy. . . it has been a challenging project, but a very exciting one”

“However, being a pioneer is never easy. There are very few marine source heat pumps, and none of this size in the UK, so it has been a challenging project, but a very exciting one.” He said the Trust is now very keen to share with others what it has learned. Patrick Begg, rural enterprises director at the National Trust, said: “It’s clear to us that we need to make big changes so that we can continue to protect our treasured places and tackle the impacts of climate change. This successful scheme marks a major step forwards in our clean energy journey.”

Investment programme

The project is the first of five schemes to be completed in a £3.5m pilot phase of the Trust’s Renewable Energy Investment Programme, which was launched last year in partnership with a 100% renewable electricity supplier, Good Energy. The Trust expects completion within the next year of four other pilot projects: installing biomass boilers at a castle in Herefordshire and a mansion in Suffolk; and two hydro-electricity schemes. The Trust is committed to reducing its energy use by 20%, halving fossil fuel consumption, and generating 50% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. This will enable it to cut its energy costs by more than £4m annually, releasing more money for conservation. − Climate News Network