New energy behind historic Sutton Hoo site as solar panels installed on visitor centre roof

Sutton Hoo exhibition hall. Photo by Dee Nunn.

Sutton Hoo exhibition hall. Photo by Dee Nunn. - Credit: Dee Nunn

An ancient Suffolk settlement is getting a modern makeover thanks to the installation of solar panels.

Sutton Hoo solar panels. Photo by Justin Harrison, Panasonic.

Sutton Hoo solar panels. Photo by Justin Harrison, Panasonic. - Credit: Justin Harrison, Panasonic

Once home to early ancestors who revered the sun’s life-giving strength, Sutton Hoo is hoping to harness the same power as part of the National Trust’s commitment to produce half its energy by renewable means.

An array of 72 high-efficiency photovoltaic (PV) modules have been installed on top of visitor centre buildings at the Anglo-Saxon burial site near Woodbridge, where some 100,000 visitors flock annually.

The panels could generate 42,000kWh of electricity each year – enough to supply more than 10 average UK homes.

For phase two, the National Trust plans to use renewable energy technologies such as biomass and heat pumps to keep the buildings warm.


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Together, the initiatives are expected to reduce the estate’s annual consumption of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) by about 35,000 litres, and cut CO2 emissions by about 55 tonnes.

Project manager, Dee Nunn said: “This project is helping us to show that even in the most historically significant locations, it is possible to move away from fossil fuels and switch to low carbon renewable energy sources without negatively impacting on the places we are caring for.

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“Visitors over the last few weeks may have noticed some scaffolding around the visitor centre while the panels were installed, although we have been keen to ensure the works were completed with as little disruption as possible and have not interfered with the much loved atmosphere and mystery of the burial mounds.”

In 2015, the National Trust announced a four-year, £30 million investment in renewable energy projects at sites around the country, with a target of generating 50% of its energy needs through renewable installations, while reducing overall demand by 20% through efficiency measures by 2020.

Last July, a biomass boiler was officially switched on at the Ickworth Estate, in Bury St Edmunds, following a successful one-year pilot project.

Sutton Hoo’s PV modules were delivered and installed by National Trust corporate partner, Panasonic.

Ms Nunn said the partnership has been effective in merging the historic and modern age.

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