Palé Hall has its own hydro-electric generating plant. It was installed in the 1920s by Gilbert Gilkes & Co of Kendal for the Robertson family. The turbine is powered by water from a river that has its source at the top of the mountain. It’s fed by the river into a special grid and then piped down the hillside through two inspection chambers to the turbine house where it drives the turbine to produce DC power. The DC power currently runs our hot water system, the rest of the house having been rewired to use AC power to meet current safety regulations. Apocryphally, this rewiring required seven miles of cable and 440 sockets.
Whilst preserving the old turbine we are upgrading the system to provide AC power; this will enable us to feed our surplus power in the National Grid. This involves installing an additional turbine and pulling new cable up to a transformer that will allow us to use all the electricity we need to provide us with hot water, central heating and lighting. Additionally we are having a heat exchanger installed so the central heating water will also heat the hot water – obviously the water from the two systems is kept separate. We will continue to have oil boilers for a back-up when we aren’t producing enough electricity for our needs, but this very efficient and modern system should allow us to run these elements in a cost-neutral and a very ecologically sound manner.
Inevitably pulling cables through to the house – a very innocuous sounding phrase – has actually meant digging a huge trench from the turbine house up through the grounds, carefully avoiding all trees and across the lawn near the house. It’s a very neat trench but we are very glad that we have plenty of time to make good the grounds, so that by the time we open, all will be beautiful once more. At our busiest we had three diggers on site plus a dumper truck. John, the premises manager, and Stuart our gardener, have been looking on with envious eyes …
‘No! You can’t have one guys.’