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Century Old Mansion Gets Hydropower Renovation

As the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This could be said for the Cragside mansion in Northeast England, which is returning to its roots by installing a hydropower system more than a century after pioneering this method of energy generation.

The modern Archimedes screw at Cragside. Courtesy of National Trust

The modern Archimedes screw at Cragside. Courtesy of National Trust

Cragside was built by inventor and innovator Lord Armstrong in the mid 19th century. The mansion first used the Archimedes screw in 1878 to produce electricity from stream water. The energy produced was used to light the house, making it the first residence in the world to be lit through hydroelectricity.

Now, more than a century later, the National Trust (a charity that conserves historic houses across the UK) has decided to go out with the new and in with the old. The organization is installing a modern version of the Archimedes screw, which is 17 meters long and will generate energy from water that passes through the device and into the stream below. As the water passes through the device, it will spin a series of blades, and the energy will be converted into electricity with a generator.

Andrew Sawyer, a curator at Cragside, said, “It is a very visual demonstration of the way hydropower works, an almost sculptural sight in the landscape. Hydroelectricity is the world’s most widely used form of renewable energy, so we are looking forward to sharing this very special part of its heritage.”

Once fully functioning, the new system will produce about 12kW of electricity, enough to light the entire mansion. Overtime, it should provide Cragside with 10 percent of its total electricity. The National Trust is also working to reduce 20 percent of its energy use by halving its fossil fuel consumption, in addition to generating 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources in the next five years. So next time you’re looking to make an improvement, remember, sometimes the original is better than the remake!

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