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Historic Site Turns to Hydro Generation for Power

Professor Paul Coughlan is part of an international team of researchers from Trinity College Dublin and Bangor University leading the project in partnership with the National Trust.

On 21 November 2019, researchers from Trinity College Dublin and Bangor University, in partnership with the National Trust, launched a small hydropower installation from the nearby Afon Wybrnant at the 16th century historical farmhouse of Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant.

Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant is a renowned tourist site in Northern Wales managed by the National Trust. It was the birthplace of Bishop William Morgan, the first translator of the Holy Bible into Welsh, where an original copy of the 431-year old Welsh bible is still kept.

The new hydropower installation at the Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant demonstration site is part of the interdisciplinary cross-border Dŵr Uisce research project, which is looking into ways of improving the long-term sustainability of water supply, treatment, and end-use in Ireland and Wales. The Dŵr Uisce project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Ireland-Wales Cooperation programme 2014-2020.

The installation is expected to generate about 19,000 kWh of clean renewable electricity per year for lightning and heating Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant, saving approximately 5.2 tonnes of CO2 per year and allowing the National Trust to maintain a culturally significant collection more sustainably.

Dr Prysor Williams from Bangor University leads the team tasked with calculating the impacts of installing the technology. He commented: The installation also demonstrates the environmental benefits of the scheme and proves the economic attractiveness of such small-scale distributed hydro generation. In theory, this installation could power around five houses per year, given the average Welsh home’s electricity annual electricity consumption of around 3,500 kWh. If the technology was implemented more broadly, it could offer real economic and environmental benefits – a clear ‘win– win”.

Climate Change Advisor for the National Trust, Keith Jones explained: “Earlier this year we experienced the worst flood at Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant in living memory and that extra moisture meant we needed to use more heating to ensure the humidity levels didn’t get too high. Climate predictions indicate likely increases in the severity and frequency of rainfall in the area. This small-scale technology is allowing us to adapt to future changes more sustainably.”

Dr Aonghus McNabola, Associate Professor in Engineering at Trinity and the Dŵr Uisce project lead, said: “We have, alongside our partners at Bangor University, been working closely with the National Trust on this project over the last two years. We are hopeful that we will further develop this exciting new heat recovery technology and that it may be used more widely in the not-too-distant future.”

Find out more about Dŵr Uisce here.