Mingled in with tales of a dog (Gelert) that saved a baby from a wolf and the literal meaning of the name Hafod y Llan (farm in the sacred place) was a casual chat around the benefits of hydropower.
A brief conversation with our taxi driver Vincent, while en route to a renewables open day at a farm in Snowdonia this week, showed how green energy has become a normal part of life for communities in North Wales.
Hidden among the bracken, conifers and grazing cattle at the National Trust’s steep and rugged farm estate of Hafod y Llan are stacks of nifty renewables. Solar panels light up the lamb orphanage, a wood pellet range cooker warms pies and kettles for cuppas and a small scale hydro, which runs off a nearby waterfall, powers-up the farm’s office and homes of three tenant farmers nearby. It is a centuries old solution to a modern day problem – spiralling fuel poverty.
Our first tour of the day took us on a steep climb from turbine to weir (here come the technical bits)…
Now the Trust is investing in another hydro scheme at the site, but this one will be around 40 times more powerful. At a cost of £1.5m to implement it is expected to raise around £360,000 a year by selling the electricity it generates back to the grid (FiT and export tariff). This covers the cost of powering all of the National Trust properties in Wales, including castles, mansions, gardens, 45 holiday cottages and 200 farms. And it means more money can be spent on securing the future of Hafod y Llan farm and can be ploughed back into the environment and the Trust’s wider conservation work.
Already several hoops have been jumped through by a skilled and enthusiastic team to get near to completing this project – surveying, planning, legalities, finance and of course construction, including a mile’s worth of large pipe – not an easy task when you are building up the side of Wales’ highest mountain.
And sharing this learning about installing renewables into sensitive landscapes – or “seeing under the skin of what’s happening,” as Wales Environmental Practices Advisor Keith Jones said – was a key part of the open day.
Despite the constant showers (no wonder hydro is popular in North Wales) and those infernal midges (if only we could run biomass systems off them), around 200 hundred National Trust staff, energy providers, community groups and various environmental practitioners were not deterred from attending the event.
What they were looking for varied, but the question remained the same – how?
- Find out more about the processes and practice of installing small and large renewable schemes in your home, business, community or region at the NT Going Green blog .
- Help the Trust to discover and share the power of nature by making the switch to green energy provider Good Energy – for every switch made, up to £40 will go towards our pioneering renewable energy generation projects.