Coal has been used as an energy source for centuries and still accounts for a large proportion of the energy produced in the UK.

A museum documenting the history of coal in Wales has now looked to an alternative source of energy in order to reduce its overall running costs – solar.

Wales currently accounts for 8 per cent of solar power produced by the UK, according to the latest statistics from Ofgem.

The Big Pit Coal museum is the National Coal Museum in Wales and is located in Cardiff. It was recently fitted with some 200 photovoltaic panels on its roof.

The Big Pit was one of several coal mines in the region in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, providing hundreds of jobs for local people over that period. The pit gained its name due to the 300-foot deep shaft. The mine was closed in February 1980 and re-opened after an extensive redevelopment as a museum in 1983.

The solar panels are expected to generate some six per cent of the building’s total electricity usage in a year. The photovoltaic panels are also expected to generate a Feed in Tariff income of £400,000 over the lifetime of the tariff – saving around 5,000,000kWh of electricity in the process.

Speaking to Renewable Energy World, Museum Manager Peter Walker commented: “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.

"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.”

Big Pit is described as "a living, breathing reminder of the coal industry in Wales and the people and society it created" on the museum’s website and since its opening, the museum has seen over 3 million visitors pass through its doors. It is now a World Heritage site.