Solar Panels Go Atop 16th-Century English Castle

A 460-year-old castle in far northeastern England now has a piece of modern technology that most 21st-century buildings still can’t claim: a rooftop solar power system.

The National Trust, the nonprofit conservation group that oversees Lindisfarne Castle and a vast collection of historical sites in England, Wales and Nothern Ireland, hasn’t released an official description of the project. But in media reports, the castle property manager said 48 solar panels were installed atop the castle—out of view of visitors and with utmost respect for the integrity of the ancient structure.

solar castle lindisfarne

image via National Trust/Lindisfarne Castle

“The installation design has taken into account the aesthetics and historical importance of the building by ensuring that there will be no weight or direct contact of the panels or frame on the roof itself,” Simon Lee, property manager at Lindisfarne Castle, told Journal Live.

We saw similar care taken with a solar installation at another English historical site—the Devon Mill, a century-old textile mill that recently navigated English Heritage requirements to install a 143.3-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system on its roof.

According to reports, Lindisfarne Castle’s much smaller system is expected to generate about 10,000 kilowatt-hours of power annually, amounting to around 10 percent of its electricity demand. Electricity is reported to be the only source of power for the castle, which is perched on a promontory at the eastern end of Holy Island, a tidal island jutting out into the North Sea less than 20 miles south of the English border with Scotland. A causeway to the mainland makes the island, and the castle, accessible during low tide.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.