A river runs through it
Hydropower: blueprint for supplying energy to social tenants?
An ecologically sensitive National Trust hydropower project could provide landlords with a blueprint for supplying energy to social tenants, as Jess McCabe finds out
Pristine is the word that springs to mind as the sun rises in the Great Langdale valley, glinting off the snow-covered mountain caps. Narrow and fast, the sound of the Stickle Ghyll stream rushing down the mountain is deafening, the water perfectly clear.
To the untutored eye, the awe-inspiring valley, dotted with the occasional sheep, does not seem to be an ideal location to build anything, let alone a hydropower plant. Indeed, the plan brings to mind the words of local poet William Wordsworth, who in protest at plans to build a railway through this area in 1844, wrote: ‘Is then no nook of English ground secure, from rash assault?’
Yet this is exactly what the National Trust is planning to do, to supply electricity to tenants and neighbours in the valley – and to Sticklebarn, which is not a location in the Lord of the Rings, but in fact a pub run by the historical protection charity.
Appearances can be deceiving – the choice of location turns out to have the force of logic and history behind it. The National Trust has selected Great Langdale as one of its first experiments with hydropower, as it strives to meet a target to generate 50 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2020, in part because of its history of industrial use dating back to the Neolithic era. It has a lack of sensitive plant or fish life, meaning the site fulfils the trust’s requirement that any work done on its land respects the ‘spirit of place’.
And the National Trust’s experiments with one of the lesser-known technologies for generating renewable power could be a model for social landlords, who until now have mostly stuck to solar power – the staple energy crop of the sector.