Pioneering drive towards cleaner energy is unveiled at the National Trust’s Ickworth estate

Amber Rudd is pictured with L-R: Dee Gathorne-Hardy (senior ranger), Patrick Begg (programme directo

Amber Rudd is pictured with L-R: Dee Gathorne-Hardy (senior ranger), Patrick Begg (programme director - Ickworth), Jonathan Rhodes (programme manager - Ickworth), Gill Dickinson (Good Energy), Stephanie Hall (project manager - National Trust) and Miranda Campbell (East of England environmental practices adviser - National Trust). - Credit: Archant

A new biomass boiler at Ickworth has been officially switched on by a Government minister as the National Trust announces a £30million investment in renewable energy to heat and power more of its estates.

Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd MP, visited the trust’s Ickworth estate to see the new boiler, which will lead to yearly savings of £13,000 in fuel.

The estate will also benefit from about £17,000 a year through the Government’s renewable heat incentive.

The arrival of the new boiler, which is in a former garage at the back of the West Wing, comes as the National Trust announces it biggest ever investment – £30million – in renewable energy to heat and power more of its historic places.

The boiler at Ickworth is one of five pilot projects involving renewable technologies, which also includes a biomass boiler at Croft Castle in Herefordshire. As a result of the pilot schemes, some 40 or so projects are being rolled out, including one at Sutton Hoo.

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The 199kw biomass boiler at Ickworth replaces an oil boiler fed by a 5,000 litre oil tank, providing heating to the West Wing and Rotunda. It will be fuelled by wood chip sustainably harvested from the estate’s woodlands.

Ms Rudd said: “It’s really wonderful to see it [renewable energy] as part of such a historic and important local building and estate. Sometimes renewable energy gets criticised for looking awful or not being in keeping with the area or changing the landscape.”

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She added: “It’s all been done in keeping with the reasons why people come here; to remember the history and culture and elegance of the place.”

The new system will also reduce property carbon emissions by more than 100 tonnes and 38,202 litres of oil per year.

Patrick Begg, rural enterprises director at the National Trust, said: “Ickworth is a great example of where we are taking action to move away from our reliance on fossil fuels and reduce our carbon emissions.

“In setting out our 10-year plan we recognised we will have to play our part in helping to mitigate climate change. A key part of that is to reduce our reliance on oil and look for greener energy solutions.”

The boiler is expected to use 156 tonnes of wood chip per year.

Dee Gathorne-Hardy, senior ranger at Ickworth, said the amount of wood needed for the biomass boiler was about 1% of the woodland volume, but the woods were also growing by 3-4% a year by volume, so they would not be depleting the woodland resource.

He said there were also benefits around conservation and biodiversity as the conifer species planted in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, which are being used for the wood chip, will gradually be replaced by native broadleaf trees, such as oak.

“It’s the habitat for a lot of other species. It’s improving the habitat and by thinning the trees you are letting in more light to the woodland floor and that encourages more flowers and insects, which is a great food source for birds.”

Sue Borges, marketing and engagement manager at Ickworth, said the new boiler will very much become part of the visitor experience at the estate.

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