It seems that irony is a dish best served coal. The Wales National Coal Mining Museum located in Big Pit, Blaenavon, Nr Abergavenny in south Wales has just installed a huge solar panel array to save money. The 400 panels are estimated to offset about $648,000 over the next 25 years. The electricity generated on site will be used to power the facility, and any excess will be sold back to the National Grid, adding another source of income for the museum.

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In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Big Pit employed hundreds of workers before closing in 1980. In 1983, after extensive renovation it reopened as a museum, later becoming a World Heritage Site and seeing over 3 million visitors pass through its doors. Thanks to a new array of PV panels, the Museum will be able to generate about 6% of its total energy.

“Coal is such an important part of Wales’ heritage and yet green energy will play a major part in its future. A solar powered coal-mining museum is a fantastic way to celebrate this national journey,” said Peter Walker, the Museum Manager. “But it’s far from just symbolic — the museum will benefit from huge reductions in energy bills and a solid return from the feed-in tariff.”

Craig Anderson, the head of the panel project, said that he was delighted that the thousands of children that visit the site every year would not only gain an insight into how the Welsh coal industry helped power the technological revolutions of its time, but to also see how green advances could help replace fossil fuels. “It’s a nice contrast between our industrial heritage and our desire now to harness renewable energy. I think it all makes perfect sense.” he said. He added that he hopes the museum will continue to invest in green technologies.

Despite coal plants still popping up in China and India, if the Welsh can take steps towards honoring their past while planning for the future, there is hope that other industrialized are capable of doing the same.

Via The Guardian

Images via Wikimedia commons users Steinsky and Arafi