Dec 212012

The Wales National Coal Museum, known as the ‘Big Pit’ museum, has turned to
solar energy to power its buildings in Blaenafon, south Wales.

More than six percent of Big Pit’s energy will be generated by 200 solar panels installed on the museum’s roof in a bid to reduce bills and carbon footprints, museum representatives said.

The Big Pit was one of several collieries in the area in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries providing employment for hundreds. The shaft at the pit was 300 feet deep with it gaining its name due to the particularly large elliptical shaft. Big Pit closed in February 1980 at which time it employed 250 people. By 1983, after extensive development, it re-opened as a museum.

Since that time, the National Coal Mining Museum has seen well over 3 million visitors pass through its gates and it is now a World Heritage site. The museum invested $114,000 in the panels but is expected to save $652,000 over a 25-year period. In addition, the electricity generated will be used on site with any surplus being sold to the National Grid, which can produce additional income for the museum.

Despite complaints from some of the ex-miners who work as guides at the museum, the most common reaction to the new energy source has been positive.

“Coal is such an important part of Wales’ heritage and yet green energy will play a major part in its future,” Peter Walker, museum manager at Big Pit said. “A solar powered coal mining museum is a fantastic way to celebrate this national journey.”

The panels are an initiative of community interest company Warm Wales.

“In bringing together a major contributor to our Welsh heritage with new technology we’re demonstrating to all that even the most traditional of industries can gain substantial benefits through integrating the old and the new,” Warm Wales’ project director Craig Anderson said.

The Big Pit won the Gulbenkian Prize for Museum of the Year in 2005 for ‘keeping the story of British coal alive,’ and is one of Wales most popular tourist attractions.

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