Petra is studying on the MSc Renewable Energy and the Built Environment course at CAT. After taking a break between finishing here taught modules and starting her dissertation she has been up at CAT today speaking to her tutor about a dissertation idea. It was a great opportunity for us to catch up with her about her experience of the course so far and what she has been able to do with it.
What is the dissertation about?
I’m looking a coral reef restoration project. For restoring coral they use submerged metal cages with an electrical current going through them at a low voltage. Over time these cages grow limestone on them, which helps establish the coral. At the moment this electric current is usually powered by diesel generators. I am looking at the potential of using marine current generators instead.
How did you get into studying renewable energy at CAT?
I trained as an Electrical Engineer in Hungary, and then worked as an automation specialist for eight years. I worked particularly on software testing in automated warehouses.
I guess I was looking for something that felt more important. I find that just working for money isn’t very motivating.
So I found the course at CAT and decided to come over and study here.
How has studying at CAT impacted on your career?
Initially I continued working in automation alongside studying, but I was looking for a new job. I used to find it was whenever I was meant to be writing an essay I would get distracted with looking for jobs instead! I wanted to find something in the renewable energy sector.
In January 2014, whilst still studying at CAT, I got a contract with a PV installation company as a project engineer. I had tried looking for a renewable energy job before starting the course and nobody was interested, so I certainly think being on the course made a difference. In the interview we had to complete some calculations, which seemed very simple after studying on the course. I didn’t find it to difficult to get into the work once I had started either.
How was your experience of studying at CAT?
I really enjoyed it. When I was doing my undergraduate degree I didn’t know what I really wanted to do. I was much more motivated with my MSc because I had a sense of purpose.
I met lots of people on the course, which was fun. I like the whole setup at CAT. When I first came for an open day it took hours to get here and I thought ‘is the drive going to be worth it?’ It definitely was. The setting here is so beautiful it is almost like being on a holiday. I always enjoy coming away here.
What impact has studying MSc Renewable Energy and the Built Environment had on your career?
My background was in mechanical engineering. I graduated in 2002 and then worked in the agricultural industry for seven years until 2009. At that point I wanted to move back to Wales, where I am from, and I was also interested in getting into renewable energy.
I managed to get a job with a small wind installation company in Bangor doing feasibility studies and project management. I decided to do an MSc alongside working to allow me to advance in my career.
About six months after starting the course I got a new job with a bigger national company called Carter Jonas. In this company I was able to work on larger scale projects, and more of a range of projects involving hydro, solar, wind and biomass. I wouldn’t have got this job without being on the course. Working in a bigger company has allowed me to expand my career. I’m directly using the skills I gained on the course in my work
Why did you decide to do the MSc Renewable Energy and the Built Environment course at CAT?
I looked at it originally because it was at a convenient location near to Bangor. What I particularly liked about it was the good mix of face to face and distance learning. Studying through 5-night blocks meant I could do the course without missing much work, and it didn’t really impact on my employers. I came to an open day and I was really impressed with the teachers and facilities.
How was the experience of the course for you?
One of the things I have most appreciated whilst being on the course is that the small numbers of students means you get plenty of time with the lecturers to look at things in detail
I have definitely enjoyed the course, although it is hard work if you are studying alongside working full time. There are a good bunch of people on the course, and you spend all your time with them during the on site attendances. A week at a time is a good amount of time to spend with people. I’ve made some great friends who I will certainly stay in touch with.
CAT is based in the buzzing Dyfi Valley awash with active environmental and sustainability projects- according to a Guardian article: “if any place in Britain could be called its sustainable capital, it’s Mach.” We have counted up the projects and gathered them here under relevant subheadings below – although many themes are interlinked. We don’t have everything so if you think you should be on the list, write to us and tell us
Ecodyfi is a regeneration organisation that supports local projects including; Mentro Allan (Venture Out); Dyfi Footprint Project; Dyfi Biosphere; Communities First and Lifelong learning amongst others about Sustainability; Transport; Tourism; Energy; Waste and Fair Trade:
Sustrans, is a sustainable transport charity developing the National Cycle Network, Safe Routes to Schools and other projects to encourage walking and cycling in the UK. It also includes trails in the local area.
Swap Shop, Machynlleth is an online community that enables you to swap unwanted items for items that you need for free.
CRAFT (Ceredigion Recycling And Furniture Team) collects and accepts donations of unwanted goods and furniture to sell or recycle in Aberystwyth.
Dyfi Vally Seed Savers is a not-for-profit organisation based in Machynlleth that promotes saving and swapping seeds with the aim of preserving old or unusual vegetables; nurturing local knowledge and plant heritage; and promoting sustainable gardening. Current Seed Saver Projects Include; The Welsh vegetable Project; The Powys Orchard project; and The Apple Mach Register.
The Mid Wales Food & Land Trust has recently launched an associated website for all local food and drink producers, retailers and restaurateurs in providing online promotion and exposure, whilst also acting as a comprehensive business database available to the public and the media.
Cwm Harry Land Trust are a social enterprise picking up food waste around Newtown, Llani and now Welshpool, and processing it into compost. They also work with socially disadvantaged and children’s groups on their allotment, and are working with local small-scale growers with a veggie bag scheme.
This is Rubbish is a food waste campaign that set up in Machynlleth to raise awareness and tackle concerns about food waste within the UK supply chain.
The Dyfi Valley was also awarded with Fair Trade Valley status in 2004 by achieving over one thousand signatures during the Fair Trade Fortnight that year.
Dyfi Land Share is working to match up people who want to grow food with available land in the Dyfi Valley, they work to promote local food production and better enable people to grow food in the Dyfi Valley.
Coed Lleol provides information and contacts in Wales whether a woodland manager, forest school tutors or individual nature enthusiast.
Coed Cymru, based in Newtown, is an all Wales initiative to promote the management of broadleaf woodlands and the use of locally grown hardwood timber.
Wales Wild Land Foundation (WWLF) is a group that has just set up to create an area of native woodland near Machynlleth. As part of the same group: The Cambrian Wild Woods Project, are planning for a beaver enclosure near the Artists Valley.
Bro Dyfi Community Renewables is a community energy co-operative for community-owned renewable energy projects including two community wind turbines near Machynlleth.
Mid Wales Car Share is an online networking site and has a function to allow you to search by specific journeys in Mid Wales.
Anemos Renewables a Machynellth based wind energy company offering consultancy, design and installation services for small to medium sized wind energy schemes.
Dulas Engineering are a renewable energy company based in Machynlleth that provide expertise and consultancy in biomass, wind, solar, and hydro power.
John Cantor Heat Pumps is a website of useful basic information about heating-only applications with heat pumps. It covers environmental issues, and supports the appropriate use of this technology in high-efficiency eco-friendly applications.
Dyfi Architecture is a registered, award winning architectural practice based in the Dyfi Valley, they aim to bring added value to the built environment through designs that can be constructed and operated sustainably and have the potential to be adapted to suit future needs.
Free range designs uses recycled and sustainable sourced wood to create bespoke pieces of outstanding furniture, from story telling chairs to enchanted beds.
Green Holidays Wales Comprehensive website with links to green accommodation providers and activities in Mid-Wales
PIRC (Public Interest Research Centre), based in Machynlleth, is an independent charity that integrates technical research on climate change, energy and economics, and translates this into a range of social mediums and materials.
Eco Centre Wales provides sustainable energy education for West Wales run mainly by volunteers.
Cyberium is a design and content company that specialises in working with ethical, socially constructive and environmentally positive clients or projects.
If you are involved in a local project related to Sustainability and the Environment, or know about something we should include here, please send a web link or brief description to the CAT Media department; firstname.lastname@example.org , or include in the blog comments.
Great opportunity for subsidised visits for KS 3, 4 and 5 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) groups in Wales
Schools from North Wales
Until July 2015 schools from North Wales can book a STEM visit to CAT with a bursary towards travel, tuition and entry. Priority will be given to schools in Communities first areas. This bursary may be repeated Sept 2015- July 2016. Funded by Thomas Howell’s Education Fund for North Wales
This offer is on a first come first served basis. Do get in touch as soon as possible.
Yesterday the REBE (Renewable Energy and the Built Environment) students were taken to visit Mynydd Gorddu Wind Farm located near Tal-y-bont, Ceredigion, West Wales and given a tour by the site manager. As a media volunteer I get to document all the interesting excursions students make, and so I thanked the weather gods for a sunny day, pulled on my long johns and packed my camera. After bumpy ride down narrow roads on the local coach, we arrived and were greeted by the sites operational manager, a sharp man in his forties. With the sun on our backs, we huddled round like penguins as he explain how this wind farm, which has been successfully running for nearly 20 years was started.
Developed initially by Trydan Gwynt Cyfyngedig in 1997 – a company owned by a local family, Dr Dafydd Huws and Mrs Rhian Huws, npower renewables was involved in the early stages but in 1993 ceased to be involved with the project. Beaufort wind Limited are listed as the owner now, RWE Innogy as the operator. Dr Dafydd Huws had been inspired by the turbines at CAT and later through visits to Denmark where the technology has been developed further. In 1997 however, npower renewables agreed to assume responsibility for the financing and construction of the wind farm. Trydan Gwynt Cyfyngedig became a co-operative venture between npower renewables, now called RWE Innogy and the Huws family company, Amgen, the welsh for “positive change”. Dr Huws and his company Amgen continue to have, a leading role in the development of the wind farm and its operation.
By all accounts this wind farm was remarkably successful, with a good track record of fulfilling its potential, but like all machines they do need maintenance.It was interesting to hear direct from the horses mouth what its like to manage a site such as this, what kind of decisions you have to make when lightening strikes and melts the conductors. Calling crane companies and having to pay them double so they can come lift off the hub and propellers the next day, and get the turbine back in action as quick as possible. These kind of quick financial calculations, mixed in with practical monitoring and maintenance are all part of a days work for a wind farm operational site manager.
The site was awarded European grant of £1.3m to trial four different types of turbine but today there stands 19 turbines, with two different diameters, as the planning authorities weren’t so happy with the idea of too many different machines scattered across the hills. The planners also ensured that the sub-station, where the electricity is sent into the grid and where the turbines are monitored (with P.C’s STILL running from 1995, a little fact to amaze the techo- heads) is built in a true vernacular style, with stone walls, wooden doors and iron detailing.
If you are interested in the performance of these medium sized wind turbines then you may be interested in the following; 7 of the turbines are each rated at 600 kilo Watts with a hub height of 34 metres and a rotor diameter of 43m. The other 12 are rated at 500kW each with a hub height of 35m and rotor diameter of 41m. The rotors on both turbine sizes turn at an approximate speed of 30 revolutions per minute (rpm), driving a gearbox within the nacelle which is in turn connected to a generator. The turbines start to generate electricity automatically when the wind speed reaches around 11 miles per hour (mph), and achieve maximum output at around 33 mph. They shut down when the wind speed exceeds 56 mph, which is rare. The farm has a combined maximum output of 10.2 megawatts.
I have no pretentions of being an engineer, and so many of these technical details the REBE students were avidly scribbling down passed me by and I tuned into the gentle sound of the blades swooshing above me in the cold winter wind and their majestic white silhouettes cutting into the crisp blue sky, a symbol to me of beauty and hope. I was also noticing the red kites sailing high in the sky, the fresh strong blast of cold wind whipping around my ears and noticed a suprising birds nest above one of the windmills doors at the base.
I am interested in the politics and people behind these endeavours and was intrigued to hear how carefully Dr Dafydd Huws tried to maximize the returns to the community by ensuring the windfarm infrastructure spread across more than one owners land. There is a fund, “Cronfa Eleri” that’s administered by Amgen, who have set up the Cronfra Eleri Advisory Committee, ensuring that people who understand the needs of the community decide how the money is spent to provide the widest community benefit. The fund yields about £10,00 a year and in 2011 the fund helped buy a new heating system for a community centre in Ysgoldy Bethlehem, Llandre, a new shed for the local Talybont nursery, the re-wiring and renovation of the local church in Bontgoch, and towards a new tennis court in conjunction with the Playingfield Society Rhydypennau.
As we wandered back to the coach, we waved good-bye to the beautiful bullocks, (the wind farm was fully integrated with the traditional farming practices of the area, with sheep and cows grazing beneath the turbines) and all looked forward to a delicious lunch awaiting us at CAT. The electricity from the farm traced our steps, passing along a cables supported by wooden poles from Bow street to Machynlleth, carrying clean electricity to the local electricity grid network for use in local homes, schools and businesses. All in all it had been a very successful trip, but lets see what Alexandra King, a REBE student who came too had to say;
Who are you and what do you do when your not studying at CAT?
“I’m Alexandra King. I live and work in Bath. My husband is a consulting engineer, I work with him, mainly as a support at the moment, but hope that after finishing this course, I will be more involved in the engineering design.”
Why did you decide to study at CAT?
“CAT is the obvious choice – to my knowledge it is the best place in the country to study renewables. Why? For a long time now I was a mecologist by choice. I believe in sustainable lifestyle. We’ve installed PVs on our roof as soon as we had a chance. Renewable energy is clean and available everywhere, even in the most remote locations. It will not run out anytime soon, unlike fossil fuels. And if we start making changes now, by the time we do run out of coal and gas, we should have good enough infrastructure to keep us going. I don’t know if we could slow down the climate change, but there is always hope.”
What did you learn from the trip to the windfarm?
“I’ve always liked wind turbines, and this visit just reinforced this affection. They are so elegant and not at all noisy. The footprint of a turbine is very small. I love the possibility of the double use of land (cattle or crops), turbines scale easily, the construction time is relatively short, unfortunately so is the lifespan of a wind farm. But I am sure we can overcome this in the future.
One more thing, I’ve visited several wind farms and yet to see a single dead bird, yet, driving home a few days ago, saw 8 corpses on the motorway… one of them was a badger, I think, but still.”
How do you find the teaching on the course, and is there anything you would change about your student experience with CAT?
“I love CAT, wouldn’t change a thing. Except I wish I’d started earlier, like several years ago, but never mind now. I think this course is well balanced; it will give me a broad understanding of principles and technologies that will be very useful in my future work.”
Charming and professional it seemed like they were in thinking mode and it was only by the skin on my teeth that I (a media and marketing volunteer) managed to meet these lovely people on a mission. Lets hear what they had to say…
What motivated you to do this MSc?
“I wanted to learn more about different renewable energy technologies, and so this seemed the right course for me. A colleague of mine did the course a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I came up to look around a couple of times and was really impressed by the enthusiasm and commitment from staff”
What were you doing before you came?
“Well I did and still do work full time for a medium sized wind turbine consultancy in Swansea, called Seren Energy”.
What do you feel you are getting from the course?
“I am getting hands on practical skills and knowledge from people who work in the industry”.
What has the most interesting thing that you’ve learnt about since doing the course?
“Everything, All of it! Its too hard to choose as everything has been very relevant and interesting”.
How do you find the course structure/ teaching?
“Brilliant! But intense… Its a lot of work since I am working full time”.
Name: NICK STOLFA.
Occupation: REBE MSc student and Electrical Design Consultant for Atkins.
What motivated you to come on the course?
“I wanted to continue progressing in this field, following completion of an undergraduate degree in renewable energy. More specifically, I felt the practical aspects of the REBE course would help to solidify my academic knowledge”.
What do you feel you are getting from the course?
“Practical experience combined with new academic knowledge; it’s really interesting learning from people who not only teach, but also work within the renewable energy industry. They know their stuff!”
What is the most interesting thing you have learnt about so far?
“Learning about Passivhaus was especially interesting, with the practical we did in the self-build really bringing the concepts to life”.
What do you hope to do with your MSc after the course?
“I intend to apply for profession registration with the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET). Following this I would ideally like to complete a doctorate, hopefully based on the dissertation I do as part this MSc”.
How do you find the course structure/ teaching?
“The first week was a bit of a shock, as its quite an intensive schedule, but I have got used to it now. The teaching is of a high standard and I certainly feel I’m getting my moneys worth!”
Would you’d change anything?
“I wouldn’t mind a bit more time to recap on lecture notes, as there really is a lot to take in. So maybe an additional free period would be helpful”.
Claire Newton studied renewable energy and the built environment at CAT as a way to develop her role in the Sustainable Energy Department at E.ON. Here she talks about what the experience of studying at CAT was like, and how it has contributed to her career.
I had worked at E.ON within their Sustainable Energy department for a year before I chose to undertake the MSc in Renewable Energy in the Built Environment (REBE) at CAT. My job required me to undertake high level feasibility studies for renewable energy technologies such as solar PV and wind turbines for clients and I wanted to deepen my knowledge on these technologies with the underlying theory as well as broaden my knowledge of renewable technologies into other forms such as biomass and solar thermal. Another key factor in choosing the REBE course at CAT was the emphasise on the practical implementation of the technologies. CAT was a place where the environment was really at the forefront in the motivation for learning about these technologies and as such lots of different engineering solutions had been tried. Students were encouraged to be similarly innovative in testing out different solutions when we were designing and building our solar thermal system or when we were walking the windy hillside trying to find suitable locations for wind turbines and possible means for connecting these back to the grid.
I wasn’t disappointed when I got to CAT and found that all the tutors had experience in building systems and had worked in the low carbon market on average for 10 years or more. Not only were they friendly, but they were also very keen to share their knowledge with the students and prompt them forwards. This was an area where I really benefit from CAT, as up to that point I had very much been in a design rather than implementation role at work.
A typical attendance would run from Tuesday to Sunday, with the first couple of days being focused on the technical or engineering theory of the technology in lecture time and the time from Friday onwards being spent in Practicals. Evenings often involved a one-to-one opportunity with tutors to discuss essays or reports or else attending guest lectures which looked at the broader topics of low carbon technology deployment. One evening lecture that particularly stood out from my time at CAT was how renewable technologies could be deployed in rural Africa to dramatically improve the standard of living.
The whole experience of CAT had a low carbon feel for me – the accommodation was within a low carbon building where the walls were specifically designed to retain heat in the winter and keep the building cool in the summer and where the hot water for the showers was from solar thermal collectors on the roof; the food was all vegetarian and sourced locally where possible.
In terms of benefits for my work they were many; they cemented my knowledge of the low carbon technologies; gave me an awareness of new applications for the technologies that we hadn’t previously considered; introduced me to innovative variations on technologies for example SolarWall and finally I made friends who are equally passionate about the environment. The course has meant that in the future I would be able to do investment grade level studies in different renewable technologies which I saw as an important aspect of my future development in the role.
16 November at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT)
10:30 – 4:30
Join us on Sunday the 16th November to meet tutors and decide which environmental masters degree at CAT is most suitable for you. There will be an opportunity to:
* Have a tour of the Centre, including accommodation and teaching facilities * * Meet past and current students * * Meet tutors on the courses * * Experience a taster lecture *
To book a place, including a free lunch, please email Kit Jones email@example.com by 9th November. If you can’t make this date but would like to know about future open days please contact the same address.
Leading Environmental Centre
Based in a stunning setting in the Welsh hills, the Centre for Alternative Technology has been providing sustainability education for over 40 years and offers a range of inspirational postgraduate programmes. A unique combination of leading professionals, academics and authors teach and lead the the courses, offering GSE students the ability to develop not only their theoretical and academic knowledge, but also their practical skills.
Who should study at CAT?
Anyone who wants a flexible, challenging masters course in an environmental field will find studying at CAT rewarding. CAT offers MSc courses in these areas, and tutors will be on hand to talk about all of them on the open day:
Environmental science and policy
Degrees at CAT are for anyone who wants to understand the implications of environmental change for our society. The MSc Sustainability and Adaptation degree encourages you to develop a deep understanding of environmental challenges. It interrogates the social, political and economic transition that adapting to and mitigating climate change involves. Many students from CAT have gone on to work in local, national or international policy in the public sector and for NGOs and campaign groups.
For people wanting to build a career in the renewable energy industry the MSc Renewable Energy and the Built Environment degree programme is an ideal launchpad. Graduates of CAT have gone on to work for large engineering firms, energy companies, have developed their own projects and set up their own firms. It is a technical degree that gives you the skills to be involved with both the practical and strategic side of developing renewable energy.
Buildings and the built environment
Students interested in sustainable construction and design are able to develop an in depth understanding of issues related to buildings and environmental change. The MSc Sustainability and Adaptation in the Built Environment course offers students practical experience in ecological building design and methods, as well as a detailed understanding of environmental building issues including energy management, renewable technology, building performance assessment and water and waste management. CAT graduates have gone on to a broad range of careers including facilities management, consultancy, ecological building and policy jobs. Many have set up their own companies.
Planning and strategy
Sustainability and climate change resilience are becoming the twin pillars by which new developments will be assessed. The MSc Sustainability and Adaptation Planning masters degree is the route to understanding these twin challenges on both the practical and strategic level. The course includes master planning exercises, applied projects and units covering cities and communities, water management, buildings and energy provision.
Lecturers from all these courses will be available on the open day to answer your questions
Watch the film to find out why masters degrees at CAT are different
Flexible Learning: Distance learning or on site?
Degrees in sustainability and adaptation (including the built environment and planning pathways) have been designed with a completely flexible approach to learning. Students can choose for each module whether they want to study it on site at CAT or by distance learning. You can choose to take the whole course by distance learning, the whole course on-site or a mixture of the two.
What our students are saying
“Enjoyed every minute of the course. I now, for the first time in my life, have a job I truly enjoy”
“I have rarely felt so motivated, happy and focused. I have never danced so much either”
“I found the course exhilarating from the start”
“The MSc had a huge positive impact on my life. Now I have a job I love”
“Helped me work out how to go forward in life”
“I can totally recommend the course, particularly as its flexible and you can tailor it to meet your needs”
“Without it, I wouldn’t have my job. I only had the opportunity when my interviewer noticed that I had been to CAT!”
“The MSc is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable things I have ever done.”
Postgraduate open day
16 November at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT)
10:30am – 4:30pm
The open days will be held on 16th November 2014. Please contact Kit Jones to book (includes free lunch), or if you can’t make this date and wish to be kept in touch about future events firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the 26th of July, the Centre for Alternative Technology celebrated a truly momentous occasion as it handed over 40 years worth of documents, photos and oral history interviews to the National Library of Wales. The magnificent library building is situated in Aberystwyth overlooking Cardigan Bay. Stunning views, a sunny day and real excitement marked the event which included speakers from CAT and the National Library, performances and exhibitions of materials.
Over 90 oral history interviews, hundreds of documents and publications, approximately 1000 photographs and a selection of digitised videos from the past 40 years of CAT will now be accessible to the public.
According to Allan Shepherd, Voices from the Valley Project Co-ordinator, “The Archive Launch is the culmination of three years of work involving hundreds of people across the Dyfi Valley and beyond. Over the last 40 years CAT has become an important part of the cultural landscape of Wales, influencing technological development, public opinion and government policy, as well as changing the lives of people who have come into contact with it. It’s fitting the archive is finally arriving at the National Library of Wales, one of the great guardians of Welsh cultural life.”
“This is a significant day for the National Library of Wales”, according to Aled Gruffydd Jones, Chief Executive and Librarian. “Working with CAT – a partner with international credentials and global reach – is very exciting, and a great honour for us. The arrival of the initial part of their unique archives of contemporary environmental materials will enrich and broaden our collections, and we look forward to working closely with them for many years to come as we look to build an extensive archive, accessible to all.”
Adrian Ramsay, CEO of CAT speaking at the event said;
“Our 40th anniversary is not only a chance to look back on the incredible impacts of CAT over the last 40 years, but it is also a chance to look forward to the next 40. We need to grasp the environmental challenges we face and create a healthier, sustainable society for a changing planet. The work of CAT, through our educational programmes, visitor centre and Zero Carbon Britain research project, is crucial in order to inform, inspire and enable that change.”