Thousands of years old but keeping up with the times
A beautiful castle dating back to the 12th century, can it really be combined with modern photovoltaics?
If you ask Mikael Wehtje, owner of the historic Ellinge Castle outside Eslöv in Skåne, the answer is clear:
– Yes, it is. We want to be constantly on our toes and develop the property based on the opportunities that arise.
It’s hard to imagine anything more Scanian than the image of white Ellinge Castle in the green agricultural landscape between Lund and Eslöv. A stone moat surrounds the three-storey manor house, and in the background the old village street with its low workers’ dwellings stretches away between the trees.
But despite its idyllic setting, and despite the fact that the castle was built almost 900 years ago, Ellinge Slott is not a museum. On the contrary, owner Mikael Wehtje, whose grandfather bought the farm in the mid-1950s, does not hesitate to develop the business as new opportunities arise.
– Traditional Scanian plant cultivation is still our main business, but we want to gradually develop the property by taking advantage of the values we have in the form of land, buildings and fine cultural environment.
District heating for 2,000 homes
Since 2008 it has been hosting parties and events, both in the castle and in the old half-timbered stables dating back to 1732, and since 2009 it has been the landlord of the award-winning family business Purity Distillery – which produces the world’s most award-winning vodka. It also entered the energy sector in 2007.
– Lunds Energi wanted to bury a district heating line past the farm. Since we had a farm heating system with excess capacity, we were able to connect our heating center to this line. At the same time we replaced our half-fired boiler with a 2 MW wood chip boiler. A few years later another 2 MW wood chip boiler was installed.
Today, Ellinge’s plant supplies district heating to almost 2,000 homes in Lund via this pipeline during three winter months. In 2021, it invested in further energy production, this time in solar cells.
– We calculated a roof-mounted solar cell system already eight years ago when we invested in a new farm building with workshop, machine hall and heating center. This one has a perfect south-facing roof for solar panels, but when we did the math, we couldn’t figure it out.
The business gets more legs
Over time, solar cells have become both cheaper and more efficient. When Mikael Wehtje was asked by the solar cell company EnergiEngagemang in early 2020, a new calculation was made.
– The investment was now economically viable, and we saw that the plant could produce about 30% of the farm’s annual electricity consumption. Making an economically sound investment that also contributes to sustainable energy production was a fairly easy decision.
In spring 2021, 400 solar panels were installed on the roof of the farm building with the capacity to produce 140,000 kWh per year. Since the castle itself is located a few hundred meters from the center of the farm, the historical values are not affected, while the business has more legs to stand on.
– I want to pass on a company to the next generation that is on a stable financial footing, and that means that we have to be on our toes all the time, think ahead and develop the property according to our conditions. Electricity supply is a concern for the future in southern Sweden, which is why we want to help deliver more sustainable energy.