THE National Trust has welcomed a new power unit in Barrowdale as part of an ongoing multi-million pound project. 

The charity has welcomed its 11th hydro scheme that has been created in the last eight years, as part of an ambition to help the charity “get off oil”.

The installation of this hydro, and a biomass boiler at Sizergh, have helped the Trust generate 50 per cent of its own energy in an ambition to become net carbon neutral by 2030.

Over 130 renewable energy projects have been completed in the National Trust’s mansion houses, farms, holiday cottages and cafés, as part of an ambitious nine-year programme by the charity to grow its own green energy supply and reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. 

The Trust launched a renewable energy investment scheme in 2013 to help the organisation “get off oil” and generate 50 per cent of its own energy, against a 2008 baseline, by 2021. Today, the charity says it has met that target. 

Patrick Begg, the Trust’s Director of Outdoors and Natural Resources, said: “Over a decade ago we set ourselves the ambition of growing our own energy and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, and began a serious programme of investment shortly after.

"We’ve since completed 138 projects – and most you wouldn’t even know are there.   

“Many of our historic properties that were once reliant on oil are now fuelled by natural resources and much of our visitors’ experience is rooted in renewables – from the exquisite tapestries on view that need carefully-controlled humidity, to the holiday cottages kept warm by heat pumps and the lights turned on in our hydro-powered buildings. 

“As debate intensifies around how the UK sources, generates and saves energy, these projects offer a snapshot of what’s possible – even in the most challenging and remote of settings.

"The technology and the solutions are already at our fingertips.” 

Will Handford, the Trust’s Renewable Energy Programme Director, said: “These projects are as much about looking to the past as they are about modern engineering, and this hydro perfectly illustrates how relevant these age-old methods still are. 

“Watendlath is one of the most spectacular locations in the Lake District so it’s crucial that the system blends seamlessly into the landscape. It shows how we can sympathetically install green energy projects into treasured settings – which has been our mission from the start.  

“Projects like this are an investment in the future, and many are already generating an income, with excess power sold back to the grid and the money ploughed back into conservation of our buildings and landscapes.  

“With renewable energy firmly in the spotlight right now, we hope our work demonstrates what can be done.” 

Garry Sharples, the Trust’s Renewable Energy Project Manager in the Lake District, said: “We’re delighted to continue the tradition of harnessing water power in the Lake District. The turbine at Watendlath is the 11th that we have installed over the recent years and it’s fantastic to have brought hydropower back to the beautiful hamlet. Now more than ever it’s important for us reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and the hydros, solar panels, biomass boilers and heat pumps that we’ve installed at our places will help us do that.” 

In total the 11 hydro units will produce 5,788,000 kWh of power, the equivalent annual electricity needs of almost 2000 houses, feeding directly into the National Grid and will help the National Trust in its ambitions to be net carbon neutral by 2030. 

Helena Bennett, head of climate policy at Green Alliance, said: “The UK’s dependence on fossil fuels is a major contributor to the cost of living crisis. The quicker the UK can switch to cheap homegrown renewable energy, the quicker we can start to bring down people’s energy bills and bolster energy security. The Trust’s work on nature conservation and sustainable farming continue to be essential in the fight against climate change, but it’s also hugely encouraging to see the charity’s determination to speed up the switch to clean energy across their historical sites as well.”  

The National Trust has been making steady progress pioneering the use of renewable technologies since the 1980s and now has over 300 renewable projects in operation.