Castle Drogo energy system restored

Ben Fox
Ben Fox

The National Trust has restored a 100-year-old renewable energy system at Castle Drogo, near Drewsteignton, thanks to public support.

The hydropower system, which was originally designed in the early 1900s by the celebrated architect Edwin Lutyens, has been carefully restored over the past ten months, including both original turbines. It was switched on on Friday, October 20, and will be supplying green energy to the estate.

Julius Drewe, a Victorian businessman who was so successful he retired aged 33, commissioned a state-of-the-art home for his family so the castle was kitted out with all the latest in electric technology of its day.

This included a hydropower system on the River Teign, which was a system that uses fast-flowing water to generate energy that was capable of providing electricity for the entire house.

The hydro turbine building was designed by Lutyens and the project included constructing a weir further up the river and a concrete pipe to transport the water down to the building. Work began in 1928 and was finished by March 1929. For many decades the electricity produced supplied the castle, but in the early 1970s the castle was connected to the National Grid, and some 20 years later, in the early 1990s, the hydro system was shut down.

The two Francis Gilkes turbines (originally installed in 1928) have been carefully restored and reinstalled in the turbine house. The project also reused a large proportion of the original system to maintain its character whilst introducing new components where originals were beyond repair. In addition, to maximise use of the energy the hydro system generates it has been linked to the biomass heating system, so the castle and visitor centre will also be heated using a combination of renewable energy sources.

The project has been funded by the National Trust’s Renewable Energy Investment Programme.

To build a more sustainable energy future by 2020 the National Trust has committed to generating 50% of its energy from renewable sources.

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