Arlington Court - going solar

Posted on: 22 December 2010 by Alexander Hay

As our interview with Arlington Court's property manager, Ana Chylak, reveals, the sun is rising but the bills aren't...

Arlington Court - now with added photovoltaic goodness

The Sun, what an easy life it has - up there, in the sky, blasting us with UV radiation and lording it over us like it's the centre of the solar system. This will simply not do. Making the sun more worthwile, beyond the whole 'keeping us alive' thing, takes effort though and not everyone has the time.

Arlington Court, a neo classical pile from the 1820s as run by the National Trust, is an exception to the rule. As Arlington's Property Manager, Ana Chylak, revealed, some state of the art solar panels - care of NPower - have just been installed in the new stable building added to the estate.

How do these work? The photovoltaic cells in the panels absorb sunlight and turn it into electricity. Best of all, they blend in well with the new building and will help Arlington save money.

"In designing the new building", Ana reveals, "we tried to make best use of natural light to reduce the need for additional eclectic light, so we incorporated a long skylight in the roof.  

However, this design feature threw up unexpected problems: "It worked too well, on bright summer days the high light levels were beginning to damage the carriages. We needed to take action to stop this.  Rather than just blacking out the windows we looked into the possibility of generating electricity as well as preventing light transmission."

So far the panels have been a success, with meters able to trace how much power they produce on cloudy as well as sunny days and, best of all, they don't stick out like some renewables do. 

"I think the project has been a success" Ana says. "we've incorporated the change without impacting on the design of the building, it has reduced light levels, we are generating electricity and the feed in tariff will support further conservation work on the property."

This isn't the end of the matter though. Arlington court will also soon be introducing a biomass boiler to produce even more power - the estate's many trees providing more than enough fuel for it. Meanwhile a further 24 National Trust properties have taken up the e-energy mantle in one way or another, as part of a push by the conservation charity to make its properties more eco-friendly. 

Best of all, it takes nothing away from the properties themselves. Handed to the trust in 1949 after the death of its last owner, one Rosalie Chichester, it retains her impressive collection of pewter, shells and model ships. Her herds of rare Jacob sheep and Shetland ponies still roam the estate too, alongside Arlington's working horses, and the new solar panel-festooned building itself houses a long established carriage museum with vehicles used by noblemen dating back to the 19th century

Ana, naturally, thinks the project has been a success, but not everything has gone her way. Namely the snow, which got in the way of this interview several times and makes things difficult in other ways. "It is beautiful at Arlington in the snow but the bitter cold brings problems, pipes freeze and visitors can't get to us safely", Ana sighs. 

Still it's not all bad: "Walking through the woods when the trees are etched with frost and sparkling in the sun is wonderful. The wild deer are easy to pick out in the white landscape and they often wander up close to the house. It certainly makes up for the chilly offices!" Ana laughs. 

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Alexander Hay

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