90 Years of Renewables at Mindrum

Mindrum’s Renewable legacy

1927 – Hydro Electric Turbines on the Bowment Water

When he came to Mindrum in 1925, Charles Chartres made a number of improvements.  A Hydro Electric Engineer by profession, he decided to install a turbine in the old mill race.  Installed by Gilks (still in business today), this turbine was rated at 8KW and provided lighting for the House, Cottages and buildings and also power for the Generator.

It is, perhaps interesting that it would run little more than a kettle and a radiator in today’s kitchen.

This was still working when it was finally decommissioned in 1968.  At this time, it was just providing hot water for the farmhouse.

1960s – Home made wind Generator at Fernie

For many years, Fernie was the Shepherds Cottage and steading in the middle of the farm.  In the early days, power was provided by a home made wind turbine.  This was made from a Landrover Alternator fitted with a home made turbine blade carved from a fencing rail.   We still have the turbine (pictured).  Though I haven’t tested it!

Homemade Wind Turbine

The turbine was mounted on a post and connected to a tractor battery.  Power in the house was provided by twin wires running through the rooms and the house.  Light was provided by a series of 12V bulbs on T pieces – which were hung on the naked wires.

I can remember going up to Fernie as a small boy to help the shepherd.  He had a 12 volt kettle and a little 12volt Television.  When the kettle was on, the black and white picture would get very small.  We knew when the kettle had boiled, as the picture got big again. Things have changed a bit now!

The other thing that I remember (still there today, though hard to see) is the “shepherd’s fridge”.  This is a cast iron cooking pot sunk into the  bank of the burn under the overflow from the spring… The shepherd used to keep his milk in this pot, kept cool by the spring water.

1999 – 2002 – Hybrid Wind, PV and Solar at Fernie

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When we moved into Fernie in 1999, faced with a huge quote to bring power up from the main buildings, we installed a Hybrid Photovoltaic / Generator system.  This was, I was informed at the time, the most northerly PV installation in England (this may or may not be true, though we are on the border!)  This was augmented by a solar hot water system.  This still works today.

In 2002, we augmented this with a 2.5 KW Proven Turbine, sited 50M from the house.  This links to the existing battery bank, and when the battery is full, drops its excess power into the hot water tank in the form of heat.

2012 – Biomass Installation in the main yard

When the majority of the woodland at Mindrum was planted between the 50s and the 70s, the business plan was based on the premise that the Thinnings would pay for themselves, leaving a nice crop of wood at Harvest time.  In the mean time, the availability of imported softwood has meant that the quantity of thinnings that we produce are of little commercial value.   This meant that we were thinning to waste – so as to give the remaining trees room to grow.    This was a constant source of irritation to me.

The advent of affordable biomass systems gave us an opportunity to remedy this situation.  In 2012, we installed a 100KW Woodchip plant which heats The Farmhouse, Some of the Cottages and a number of buildings in the steading.  This uses the thinnings, which previously were not commercially viable to use.  Absolutely tremendous!

2015 – 31KW – PV installations

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Some of the PV panels on the Old Hemmel

The efficiency of PhotoVoltaic panels has dramatically improved since we installed our first system in 1999.  In 1999, we installed two arrays (the maximum we were allowed to connect to the grid). We have 20 KW on the workshops in one steading and 11 KW installed on one of the Hemmel Roofs in the other steading.  These effectively reduce our power consumption, whilst making use of convenient south  and east facing roofs!