A biomass boiler, which is being used to heat Ickworth’s historic West Wing and Rotunda, was officially ‘switched on’ this week.
The boiler, launched as part of a 3.5 million pilot last year, forms part of a wider £30 million investment by the National Trust - its biggest ever - in renewable energy and will be fuelled by wood chip sustainably harvested from woodlands on the Ickworth estate.
Senior ranger Dee Gathorne-Hardy said the project was entirely self-sufficient, with Ickworth’s 600 acres of woodland increasing in volume by three to four per cent each year and only one per cent of that needed to power the new boiler.
He added that thinning out woodland and converting conifer plantations back to broadleaves would allow more light onto the woodland floor, thereby increasing its habitat value.
Miranda Campbell, National Trust environmental practices adviser, said around 156 trees would need to be fed into the boiler annually.
“The estate can more than support that with its annual yield so we won’t be reducing the number of trees overall,” she said.
The new system is expected to produce 390 megawatt hours a year while reducing Ickworth’s carbon emissions by more than 100 tonnes and 38,202 litres of oil each year.
It will be responsible for an annual fuel saving of £13,000, with a further £17,000 to be paid by the Government each year as part of a Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.
The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP, visited Ickworth, in Horringer, for Monday’s ‘switch on’.
She said: “It’s wonderful to see it as part of such a historical and culturally important building.”
“It’s a step forward but also a step back in time, to when we were sustainable with our own energy,” she added.
Sue Borges, Ickworth’s marketing and engagement manager, said unlike most other biomass boilers, Ickworth’s had been built with windows to allow members of the public to see inside.
It is housed in a former 1960s garage which has been regenerated using Suffolk white bricks and other architectural details to help it blend in with other buildings on the estate.
Visitors will be encouraged to walk through the back of the West Wing so ‘they can have a good look at the boiler’ and information panels will be used to help them better understand the process involved and its wider implications.
Project manager Stehanie Hall said Ickworth, previously one of the largest energy users in the region, had its energy consumption cut by a third before renewable opportunities were explored.