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The National Trust Continues Its Pioneering Work to Fight Climate Change

The National Trust Continues Its Pioneering Work to Fight Climate Change

National trust

Kingston Lacy, one of the most opulent country houses in England has been kept warm and dry with open fires and coal and oil boilers for many years until now. The unreliable and oil-guzzling boilers have been replaced with a pioneering ground source heat pump in a bid to tackle climate change. The house was built by architect Sir Roger Pratt and was the family seat of the Bankes family since 1663.

The spectacular 17th-century house, in Dorset, which was built to resemble a Venetian palace houses a remarkable collection of paintings by masters such as Velázquez, Titian, and Rubens which will benefit from the new system. The steady, gentle heat without spikes and dips in temperature should help preserve the art collection. Making the switch to a renewable heating system will also save 30,000 litres of oil each year. 

It is one of the National Trust’s biggest heat pump projects to date and the first high-temperature ground source heat pump system the charity has installed.
The old oil tank has been replaced by almost 6,000 metres (19,685ft) of underground pipes, which transport natural ambient heat in the ground to four high-temperature heat pumps, that in turn warm the mansion house and courtyard buildings.
The intricate installation of pipework involved drilling 32 vertical boreholes in an overflow car park, with each hole measuring an astonishing 180 metres in depth. 


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Specialists conducted extensive archaeological and ecological surveys over two years to ensure the protection of the historic parkland which includes Iron Age hillforts, heathland, and water meadows.
As well as saving approximately 57 tonnes of carbon a year, the new renewable heating system will remove the danger of oil spills from the previous boilers and storage tank.
The heat pump will also improve conservation of the building as well as its art collection by stabilising the temperature and humidity levels.

Owen Griffith, project manager at the National Trust, said: 

“Even in the most historically significant settings like Kingston Lacy, it’s possible to integrate these modern technologies while maintaining the utmost care for the building and the grounds. Not only will the heat pump reduce the property’s dependency on fossil fuels, but it’ll create a safer environment and improve conditions for the amazing collection items here. There are so many advantages. Magnificent buildings like these have been around for centuries, but their heating systems have evolved – from open fires to coal boilers and then oil boilers, with many energy innovations along the way. This is simply the next step in Kingston Lacy’s history and preservation.”

Kingston Lacy’s curator Dr Elena Greer said: 

“We’re proud to house one of the National Trust’s most significant holdings of fine art, including an internationally renowned collection of Old Master paintings.
The new heat pump means we can more easily maintain the optimum environmental conditions for their display, ensuring that they can be enjoyed by generations of visitors long into the future.”

Owen Griffith added: 

“What we’ve found when we’ve moved from fossil fuel conservation heating to heat pump conservation heating is that extending the heating time means that we have a longer duration of lower-grade heat coming into the building so it’s a lot gentler. We’re able to stabilise the internal environment over a longer period so daytime/night-time fluctuations, for example, are balanced out.
You don’t get the spikes in heat that you get from fossil fuels. It means we have a more stable environment that reduces the likelihood of mould growth and insect infestation.”

The National Trust has installed many renewable energy systems in recent years and plans to publish its Climate Action Transition Plan in 2024 to provide transparency for how the charity will meet its Net Zero by 2030 commitment. The Trust will further detail the steps it is taking to transition to a lower carbon future. 

Renewable projects completed by the National Trust include the significant 7th-century burial site at Sutton Hoo which has been fitted with a state-of-the-art solar energy system. The new visitor centre buildings have been furnished with 172 high-efficiency solar panels which generate 42,000 kilowatt hours each year, enough to power 10 UK homes. 

Another success story for the National Trust is Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire. Anglesey Abbey’s solar panels generate enough electricity to make two million cups of tea a year. Most of the energy generated is used in the visitor centre and is enough to meet the average energy needs of 11 UK homes. The abbey has not only been able to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide by 20 tonnes each year by generating this power but has also been able to save money on electricity bills. This has meant that more money could be spent on the vital work of conserving the estate and collection. 

Penrhyn Castle in Gwynedd Wales has nearly half an acre’s worth of solar panels working hard to reduce the castle’s carbon footprint. Each of the castle’s 100 rooms is heated by green energy with nearly 70% of the site’s energy needs being met by its solar panels and biomass boiler

Staying true to its pioneering spirit the National Trust began working with scientists from Bangor University and Trinity College Dublin in 2022 on a six-year project aimed at stopping useful energy from going down the drain. They have piloted a system that recovers energy from wastewater at Penrhyn Castle and Garden. 

Using the new technology, the researchers are extracting heat from the hot wastewater flowing out of the kitchens at between 20°C and 55 °C and using this to preheat the cold water coming into the kitchens. The heat recovery system has been operational since February 2022 at Penrhyn Castle and Garden. Results show it reduces energy consumption by 230 kWh per month, equivalent to £1,770 per year in heat savings.

The National Trust continues to work on reducing its dependence on fossil fuels and its impact on climate change with renewable energy projects. The money it saves by being more energy efficient goes toward vital conservation work that protects the countryside and the wildlife that depends on it.


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