Cotswold Wildlife Park uses renewable energy (ground source heat pumps) to turn the often cold, English climate into the heat of the African savannas and grasslands so that the Park’s three bull giraffes feel completely at home in their Giraffe House. Renewable energy also turns the Park’s Tropical House into the tropical forests of South America so that a pair of Linnes Two-Toed Sloths feel just as at home as the giraffes.

Cotswold Wildlife Park prides itself on being heavily involved with captive breeding programmes and conservation. The Park has numerous species that are part of European breeding programmes and carefully managed genetic studbooks which help maintain healthy captive populations that are extremely important for the survival of endangered species.

Reggie Heyworth, whose Father started the Park in 1970, first looked at renewable energy in 2009, when due to popular demand, the decision was taken to add giraffes to the impressive list of wild animals already on display. Heyworth was looking at the alternatives to ‘expensive’ oil fired heating to heat the newly constructed Giraffe House.

The CWP could have put in an oil tank and simply paid for oil but, as an organisation which is aware of its responsibilities to the environment, it was keen to go green and look at cost effective renewable energy options. Heyworth understood that there was an investment cost with renewable energy but the returns available under the Government’s Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI) grant and overall energy savings mean that in the long term renewable energy is cost efficient. He subsequently chose to invest in ground source heating.

The cost of the 16kW Dimplex ground source heat pump system for the Giraffe House was just under £20,000 with ground work costs, carried out by the Park, of £8,800. The ground source heat pump system was supplied by renewable energy specialist, Ecovision, based on the Highgrove Estate just outside of Tetbury, so local to the Cotswold Park.

The ground work was necessary for 8 x 100M loops to be put into the ground in a trench system at a depth of 4’ – the ideal depth – no permafrost, but deep enough to collect the natural heat, to feed the heat pump.

The giraffes at CWP took up residence in June of 2010 and after the successful use of the ground source heat pump system to keep them warm and happy, Heyworth again looked to using renewable energy to heat the Park’s Tropical House – which houses rare species such as a pair of Linnes Two-Toed Sloths and a female Ground Cuscus – plus two greenhouses used to winter tropical plants.

The Tropical House has to run at 17°C at night and between 20°-21°C during the day and previously had been heated by three oil boilers at a cost of £20,000-£30,000 a year.

Heyworth and his team first looked at a biomass boiler renewable energy solution. This was discounted due to the large amount of fuel (wood chips/pellets) that would need to be sourced and stored.

The decision was taken to install a 75kW Dimplex ground source heat pump system, from Ecovision, at a cost of just over £90,000 plus ground work costs of £38K. The ground works, carried out by the Park were necessary to put 18 x 200M loops into the ground in a field on a site across a public road, to feed the heat pump.

To ensure the Tropical House was kept at the right temperature, 22 large radiators were also installed along the back wall and have been painted with a camouflage design so that they blend in with the tropical environment.

In order to reduce the stress levels for the animals living in the Tropical House, work to install the radiators and additional pipes took place around them in a ‘noise free’ zone with all the necessary work being carried out by hand – no electric power drills whatsoever!

The Tropical House and two greenhouses were fully commissioned in the middle of October last year.

The overall cost of the ground source heat pump systems from Ecovision and the ground work, carried out by the Park itself, for both projects was in the region of £156,800.00.

The estimated annual RHI payments on both projects is £10,690, which combined with the net saving (increased electricity costs but 0 oil cost) means a payback of 8.6 years.

The total financial benefit over 20 years as a result of energy cost savings and RHI, and using 3% inflation a year, amounts to just over £490,000.

Cotswold Wildlife Park is often visited by representatives from other Parks and Zoos, to see just how efficiently it is using renewable energy not only to cut operating costs but more importantly to keep its wonderful wild animals happy and on display for all to see. The use of renewable energy means Reggie can rest easy that the actions he has taken are not only protecting the planet but also providing the right environment in which his animals can flourish.