Fountains Abbey saving £5,000 per year after swapping fossil fuels for solar power

Popular landmark’s focus on sustainability also includes a BioBlitz event for public to get closer to nature this weekend as part of Great Big Green Week

Staff at Fountains Abbey say their first year with solar panels has gone “better than we ever imagined” as they counted up annual energy bill savings of £5,000.

The visitor centre at the popular National Trust landmark had solar panels installed in March 2023 as the organisation continues its drive to reduce carbon emissions.

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The site’s general manager, Justin Scully, says the centre, which attracts 400,000 visitors per year, was previously reliant on fossil fuels and they had to be careful to take the heritage of the area into account when switching to solar panels.

Solar Panels at the Fountains Abbey visitor centre are saving them £5,000 per year in energy billsSolar Panels at the Fountains Abbey visitor centre are saving them £5,000 per year in energy bills
Solar Panels at the Fountains Abbey visitor centre are saving them £5,000 per year in energy bills

“We’re in a complex heritage site and that sensitivity was factored into every decision,” Justin says. The installation included panels that were set into the roofline rather than sitting on top of the tiles, to make them less intrusive and reduce glare. The project cost around £50,000.

“We would’ve done this work anyway because of our commitment to sustainability,” Justin says. “But after over a year it’s clear the panels will have paid themselves off within a decade, which is incredible.

“It’s a win-win for both sustainability and finances – and means we’re protected in case of more energy price rises in the future.”

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Justin says the panels integrate with the heat pumps they had previously installed at the centre and are part of a wide range of low-carbon measures including LED lightbulbs and electric vehicle charging points.

Justin Scully, general manager at Fountains AbbeyJustin Scully, general manager at Fountains Abbey
Justin Scully, general manager at Fountains Abbey

“It’s important for the National Trust to be open about climate change, which is one of the biggest threats to the land and properties we look after,” Justin says. “We want to encourage visitors to think about their own carbon footprints.”

Visitors to Fountains Abbey this Sunday 16 June will be in for a treat as they celebrate Great Big Green Week by helping the site’s rangers in a BioBlitz event.

Families can become wildlife explorers for the day, looking for bugs, beasties and birds across the site and learning how to identify different species.

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“Reducing the carbon emissions of our buildings is one of many actions the National Trust are taking to protect our planet,” Justin says. “Another one is increasing the biodiversity of habitats on our land – this weekend will be a great celebration of that.

“Young people will be able to borrow equipment, discover the incredible wildlife we have around the estate and learn what we can do to make it more nature friendly.”

“Showing the connection between changes in the climate and the abundance of nature is a key thing the National Trust can do, particularly at Fountains Abbey where we can really get visitors up close and excited about it.”

Great Big Green Week is part of a month of activities organised by The Climate Coalition in the lead up to the General Election, where people from all walks of life will be showing political candidates how they are playing their part in tackling climate change and want their politicians to step up too.

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The Climate Coalition is calling on all political parties to commit to cut emissions, restore nature and support the hardest hit at home and around the world.

Helen Meech, Executive Director of The Climate Coalition, says: “Great Big Green Week is an opportunity for hundreds of thousands of people to show how important nature and the climate is to them, and to swap ideas on what we can all do to lead greener lives.

“It is also a reminder to politicians campaigning in the lead up to the General Election that there is a consensus for our MPs to step up and do more for climate and generations to come.”

BioBlitz for Great Big Green Week at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden runs from 10am-4pm on Sunday 16 June. The event is free, but normal admission charges apply at the venue.

Great Big Green Week runs until Sunday 16 June – find events near you at greatbiggreenweek.com

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