The Green Queen

A hydroelectric scheme will produce about a third of Queen Elizabeth's energy needs at one of her homes.

In late July, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Planning Authority granted permission for a hydroelectric scheme to be built on the River Thames. This particular scheme will produce about a third of the energy needs of one of the homes of a pretty special lady. One who's been known to walk around and turn off lights in the unused rooms of her residences–Queen Elizabeth II of England.

The 200-kilowatt green electricity project–dubbed the Romney Weir Hydro Scheme–will be used, in part, to power Windsor Castle, and will be financed by Berkshire, England-based renewable energy company Npower Renewables. Npower hopes construction will start in spring 2006. It has to complete feasibility studies first to “decide how best to build the scheme,” but aims to be operational by autumn 2006. The cost is a cool £1 million.

While the money to build will come from Npower, the push for this energy-saving measure came from the top. “It's both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh's wishes that if planning approval was achieved, for the facility to be created,” says a Buckingham Palace spokesperson.

It seems this green streak runs in the family. The Prince of Wales has installed a carbon-neutral wood-chip boiler to heat the space and water in the Orchard Room, a suite used for charitable functions and receptions, at his Highgrove estate in Gloucestershire, England. And the garden at Clarence House, his official London residence, is fully organic. On the matter of the prince's reported distaste for the appearance of wind farms, a Clarence House spokesperson would only say that “it's an option that we've considered, but he hasn't spoken publicly on the issue.” Pity.