Get nocturnal at CAT’s Moth and Bat conservation night for Festival of the Future

Get nocturnal at CAT’s Moth and Bat evening next Tuesday (21st August), featuring local vice-county moth recorder Peter Williams. CAT is home to various species of bat, all of which start flying at dusk. We’ll use bat detectors to pick up their sonar and get an idea of the numbers we have here on site. A little later on the moths appear in their evening finery and will be attracted to our moth traps where we can identify them and let them go. If you’ve ever been confused by the shear variety of moths and would like Peter to shed some light on moth identification, this is the evening for you. Meet at 8:30 outside the shop and information centre at CAT, feel free to depart when you want but we’ll keep the trap on into the evening. Cake and refreshments will be provided. Families very much welcome. All the data collected will be fed into the National Moth Recording scheme.

Maybe you’ll get the chance to see one of these beauties… an Elephank Hawk Moth, and the Buff Tip.

Photo Story: Renewable Energy students visit an off the grid farm

These images were taken on a camping trip that some of the renewable energy masters student recently made to an off-the-grid farm. The farm belongs to Tony Davies who is also a student on the renewable energy and the built environment course at CAT.

Tony and his standalone, dual tracking photovoltaic system which supplies electricity for his off-grid sheep farm in Elan Valley, Wales.
















On the top of the hill, on Tony’s sheep farm looking down on the Elan reservoirs.  This is an area of grass that the sheep refuse to eat.  Tony is currently growing it to supply to IBERS (part of Aberystwyth University research department), for research into turning it into pellets and potentially using it as fuel, in his/ any biomass boiler.





The temporary camp-site with the standalone photovoltaic system, Tony’s off-grid farm and Elan Valley reservoirs in the background.









The accommodation













The control system for the PVs, with a separate small room for the batteries.  The electricity generated is stored until it is required by the farm

Tips for green living #3: Move Your Money


When was the last time you pumped toxic chemicals into the earth in order to get out some burnable gas? When did you last help dictators to purchase weapons? When did you last call for new coal fired power stations to be built?

The likelyhood is that you haven’t done any of these things. Unfortunately, the likelyhood is that your money has been doing exactly that. When you put money in a bank it doesn’t just sit there – it goes out and changes the world! Your bank uses the savings you deposit to fund all kinds of things, and many of them are changing the world for the worse.

Move your money is a campaign to teach people about what their money gets up to if they don’t keep an eye on it. Tim Hunt from the Ethical Consumer Magazine describes the environmental damage caused by the major banks lending policies:

“The UK’s biggest banks continue to avoid taking their environmental responsibilities seriously. From tar sands investments to the funding of coal mining and aviation projects, it seems no investment is off limits – whatever the environmental consequences. The banks often pay lip-service to environmentally responsible lending, through membership of groups such as the UNEP Finance Initiative, and through paper-thin policies and PR spin. But the reality is a long way from the rhetoric.” from Move Your Money.

So this weeks green tip doesn’t involve any change in your way of life, it involves making sure your money isn’t doing naughty things when you’re not watching. The good news is there are plenty of other options out there and Move Your Money can help.


This summer we’re running a six-week festival all about building a brighter future. We’ll be running guided tours, talks and workshops – as well as two special one-day events – to get you inspired about making a difference.




Four reasons why it is great to be a student at CAT

CAT is a truly inspiring place to do a postgraduate course in Renewable Energy or Sustainable Architecture. Here are four things that make the postgraduate degree courses at CAT unique:


1. The structure of the degree courses

Students don’t come to CAT to study full time. They come here for a week at the start of each module for an intense period seminars, lectures and practicals – they then go home to work on their essays and reports. This means that a lot of our students are working full time alongside their degrees. I think this kind of solution will become increasingly popular as degrees become increasingly expensive and living costs fall relative to wages. We also have distance learning options.

2. The network students establish

In part because the degrees here are so immersive (when students are here they are literally living in the university building) students build up a very close network with each other very quickly. The fact that so many of our students are also working (and many of them are mature students) means that between them they have a wealth of experience which we and they really value. This is great for their careers and it also means we have developed quite a radical pedagogy where students are encouraged to share their expertise as well as lecturers.

3. Practical approach rooted in the industry

Unlike a traditional university where most of the lecturers are full time academics, at CAT virtually all the lecturers have other jobs and projects in the renewable energy and sustainable architecture industries. They can bring this experience into their lectures and it is clear that students really value this.

4. An inspiring environment

Situated in a disused slate quarry on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park, with a 7 acre visitors centre demonstrating a wide array of renewable technologies and sustainable building techniques, CAT is a pretty utopian place to study. The WISE building (Wales Institute for Sustainability Education – our graduate school building) itself is an impressive example of what can be achieved integrating stunning architecture with environmental principles. It has won prestigious awards (including RIBA) and students often comment on what a great place to study it is.


You can hear directly from our students on this blog. So far Colin, Becca and Richard have spoken about their motivation. More blogs on this subject from CAT students are coming up.



Profile: Rufus Ford CAT Graduate now working for SSE

In his current role as R&D Manager for Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), Rufus is responsible for coordinating R&D activity across the SSE group. Prior to this, Rufus was responsible for demand-side policy development with a particular interest in energy efficiency and renewable heat. He sits on the board of Scottish Renewables and chairs the Scottish Renewables Heat Working Group.

Rufus has a degree in physics and a Masters degree in Architecture: Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies from the Centre for Alternative Technology / University of East London. His MSc thesis considered whether the waste hierarchy was still appropriate in the light of the development of advanced thermal treatment of wastes.

During and after completing his MSc in 2006 Rufus has worked in waste education for an environmental charity and managed a consultancy team in a small not for profit company carrying out work such as renewables feasibility studies and climate change strategies for local authorities, before joining SSE.

Experience at CAT

Rufus writes about his experience at CAT:

“I signed up for the AEES course at CAT having been travelling after my undergraduate degree. I was looking for a good use for a mathematical physics degree and had an interest in renewable energy and sustainability, which needed a focus. I had visited CAT as a child and stayed on a farm in South India powered by an off-grid PV system and owned by a man who had also been inspired by CAT having visited there in the 1970s.

“The course really helped me to focus my ideas and gain a good understanding of the issues from the diverse range of lectures. However for me the course is really categorised by the inspiring setting and the people I met whilst studying, many of whom I have remained friends with and worked with professionally over the years.

“It was great to return recently and to see the completed WISE buildings for the first time. These are first class facilities in a unique and special place. It was also good to hear about the exciting work going on such as Zero Carbon Britain which is helping to shape the critical energy policy debate.”

Read more about postgraduate courses at CAT in renewable energy and sustainable architecture.


Summer Photo Competition

When you visit CAT this summer I’m sure you will take some great photos. We want you to share them with us!

We’re running a photo competition throughout the festival of the future, our summer events programme. You’ve got from now until the 29th August to send us your images, and you will be entered into a draw to win £50 off an inspiring CAT short course (meaning you could get a free day course!).

Email, tag us in them on Facebook or tweet them with @centre_alt_tech.


What’s happening on Energy Day?


It’s only a couple of days until Energy Day, our celebration of positive change towards a brighter energy future. Below is a schedule of the tours, talks, workshops and activities that will be happening on the day. There will also be a bike-powered sound system, kids’ activities, stalls from renewable energy companies and community energy projects running throughout the day, as well as the chance to take your questions about energy and renewable technology to a range of experts.

Click here to download this schedule as a pdf.

Call for artists to participate in CAT Arts Trail 29th August 2012

As part of Festival of the Future, CAT is hosting an Arts and Sustainability Fair to celebrate the arts and its role in inspiring change towards a brighter, more sustainable future. This special day event will feature an Arts Trail, a pioneering project to exhibit artists’ work across the extraordinary and beautiful CAT site.

About CAT

The CAT site is situated on a disused slate mine. Since 1973 it has developed into a hub of activity, learning, knowledge and practical demonstration towards sustainability and building a better, brighter future. CAT hosts a range of examples of renewable energy including wind turbines, solar panels, hydro and biomass, and boasts extensive organic productive gardens as well as its own ecological sewage system with reservoir and reed bed.

CAT runs education programmes for schools, colleges, postgraduate masters courses and short courses for adults. CAT is also an active research centre being home to the progressive zerocarbonbritain2030 project.

The Arts Trail

CAT would like to invite artists to develop a piece of work site specific to CAT along a general theme of sustainability and the environment, to exhibit as part of the Arts Trail on the 29th August.

It could be a temporary sculpture or painting, nothing is too big or small. The main point would be to consider the issues surrounding sustainability, and reflect this through a piece using your chosen medium. The space is open to interpretation and artists are encouraged to visit the CAT site to explore ideas and gather inspiration.

The work would be exhibited for one day on the 29th August to between 400-700 visitors from the local community and further afield, but with potential to leave the piece in situ the coming week for the Emergence Summit – a major arts and sustainability conference happening at CAT between 1st – 9th September. See for more information.

How to apply

Interested artists need to send a short proposal detailing their piece by 10th August to They would then develop the work either on or off the CAT site for exhibition on the 29th to between 400-700 visitors participating in the day’s events.

There will also be options to give a talk or demonstration to visitors should the artist wish.

If you are interested or would like to discuss this opportunity further please get in touch with Rosie on 01654 705 952 or email

Thanks and look forward to hearing your ideas and inspirations!

Energy access transforms lives

On 8th August Sam Durham will come to CAT for Energy Day – our open summer event where you can explore energy issues in a variety of exciting new ways, part of Festival of the Future. Sam is an energy campaigner for Practical Action. Here he gives a preview of the issues he plans to talk about.

At Practical Action we believe in using technology to challenge poverty, and use numerous energy technologies to help people work their way out of poverty.

In the UK, we take energy for granted. Every morning, many people will switch on a multitude of energy guzzling devices without even thinking. Much of these have improved our well-being, giving labour-saving and health benefits such as keeping food cool, boiling water and cooking food, not to mention powering our hospitals, businesses, shops, schools, banks, emergency services, communication systems and government.

So, imagine what it might be like for a fifth of the world’s population that has no access to electricity.

One and a half billion of the world’s people have no access to electricity. Three billion people rely on wood and coal for cooking rather than more efficient and less polluting fuels. A staggering 1.4 million people, mostly women and children, die each year as a result of inhaling smoke from traditional stoves.

Delivering energy access enables the world’s poorest people to have better lives. All communities need modern energy for cooking, boiling water, heating their homes, lighting the darkness and preserving their food. Energy also enables people to be healthier and to benefit from educational and cultural opportunities.

However, massive energy infrastructures are not the solution as they will not reach the poor communities living in isolated rural areas. Energy access must reach the people that need it, and this is where Practical Action’s small-scale, low-cost, practical solutions come in, solutions including micro-hydro power, small-scale wind power, solar power or improved cook stoves. With these simple answers for providing energy, perhaps the developing world can show the UK the way to provide its future energy needs.

What emerges from the work Practical Action does around the world is how critical the relationship is between people and energy – how it can hold people back and how it can transform lives.

Rosa, a Turkana woman living in the Kakuma refugee camp in north western Kenya, clearly states the problems facing many: “For me, getting energy for cooking and lighting is a daily worry. It’s so hard to find firewood that I cook for my family only once a day, in the evening. The fire provides the light for cooking and eating a meal with my children. After eating is bedtime.”

Mamdhur is a farmer from an indigenous group who lives with his family in the foothills of the Nepal Himalaya. He explains how improved lighting changed his life: “Now we have electric lighting, we are very much relieved. We have more time to spend with our children and families, and no longer breathe in the smoke from the kerosene lamp that used to hurt our lungs. It was my dream to have lighting facilities in my village. The dark has turned to light.”

Access to modern energy can truly transform the lives of people living in poverty.

CAT and Volcano Theatre set to host major international arts and sustainability event this September.

From 1st – 9th September CAT will host Emergence Summit 2012: Creating the Future, a major international arts and sustainability event presented by VOLCANO THEATRE and the CENTRE FOR ALTERNATIVE TECHNOLOGY at CAT’s site in Machynlleth, mid-Wales.

The Summit comprises two parts: an international weekend conference of leaders, thinkers and visionaries; and a five-day Land Journey on foot through Wales culminating at the conference.

The Summit brings CAT’s pioneering work on low-carbon infrastructure together with Volcano Theatre’s work on developing the role of the arts as a crucible of ideas and visions for a sustainable society. Curated, designed and produced by Fern Smith (Volcano Theatre), Lucy Neal, Jenny MacKewn and Paul Allen (CAT), the Summit will explore, exemplify and embed the role of the arts in the transition to a sustainable future. Speakers, contributors and artist interventions include Robert Newman, Phakama UK, Sue Gill and John Fox, Simon Whitehead, Sarah Woods, Touchstone Collaborations, Pete Telfer (Culture Colony), Ansuman Biswas, Nick Capaldi (Arts Council Wales), Patricia Shaw, Miranda Tufnell and Paul Allen and Peter Harper from CAT.

‘This is a unique opportunity for individuals from all disciplines to converge and explore their vision for a sustainable future, escaping the dominant dystopian vision of our future, instead developing a positive, solution-focused and practically achievable vision for the transition to a more sustainable society’ Paul Allen, Centre for Alternative Technology

From 1st – 6th September over 30 delegates will attend the five-day Land Journey across Wales curated by Welsh artist Simon Whitehead. The Land Journey invites walkers to traverse the land in unfamiliar ways developing a deepened dialogue, concentration and reflection of the things we take for granted. Embedding sustainability into the personal and collective journeys of the Land Journey, artists and cuisinières Touchstone Collaborations will be providing locally and ethically sourced food, and the walk will be facilitated by Lucy Neal and Jenny MacKewn.

The Land Journey culminates at the conference. The Emergence conference Creating the Future will see 200 participants take part in a three day event of workshops, discussions, creative practice, performance and presentation between 7th – 9th September.

‘Taking the conceptual form of a sine wave, the conference aims to not only discuss and debate change, but becomes a vehicle for change itself. Participants are invited to take a journey individually and together with other participants to explore our collective issues and find solutions to emerge into a new way of being, doing and making.’ Fern Smith, Volcano Theatre

The Summit will be documented by Pete Telfer of Culture Colony and streamed through the BBC and Arts Council collaborative project ‘the Space’.

Registration for Emergence opens to the public on Monday 23rd July. Individuals can register via the Emergence website.