Solar panels provide a welcome site for National Trust

A new solar array has begun to provide energy to Bodnant Garden, which has become the latest National Trust site to benefit from the charity’s efforts to reduce overall energy use by 2020.

The 175 panel installation has been placed on a rocky hillside at the site where it provides electricity to the Pavilion café as well as two car charging points. The free power is also being used to recharge the batteries of power tools used onsite.

The Panasonic system was supplied as part of a new corporate partnership between the National Trust and the technology firm and is expected to generate 43,000 kWh each year.

The installation forms constitutes part of the £30 million investment the charity announced last year as part of its overall strategy to use 20% less energy by the end of the decade. The Trust is also hoping to cut its use of carbon based fuels by 50% in the same period through the introduction of renewable technologies.

The project posed a tricky proposition for installer Carbon Zero, which was required to fix the system to a curving hillside where it could send power to the café via a 350 metre cable. However, managing director Gareth Jones was able to draw on the civil engineering background of his family to complete the job after working with his father’s business, Mini Muckshift.

"The project was quite technologically challenging from a civil engineering point of view, so that draws on my experience as a civil engineer and the family business with civil engineering and groundwork capabilities,” said Jones.

"We’ve brought all of these skills together to deliver the project on time and on budget.”

The placement of the panels has won the approval of a number of previously concerned individuals, including William Greenwood, the general manager at Bodnant Garden, who said: “I was slightly worried that it was going to look like an industrial, unsightly blot on the landscape but it’s fantastic. It blends in beautifully. It looks as though it’s always been there and always should have been there.

“Some people have even commented to me that it does look like a piece of modern art because of the way it serpents round the hillside in sinuous line and follows the curves.”

The new array will help meet the site’s energy needs during the peak times of the summer when Bodnant Garden receives the most visitors.

Paul Southall, environmental advisor for the National Trust, said: “Bodnant Garden has had 212,000 visitors this year and when the sun is shining our visitors are here so this system makes a perfect match.

"In the first morning it was operational it roughly translated into a saving of about £35 or £40 of energy we didn’t have to buy from the national grid. It allows us to put the money we save into conservation which is our core purpose.”

As well as the solar installation at Bodnant Garden, the National Trust is engaged in the incorporation of a number of renewables technologies across its portfolio of locations, including biomass and hydro projects.