Get involved with CAT’s oral history project

The Centre for Alternative Technology will be 40 years old next year. To commemorate, celebrate and investigate its history we are looking for up to 10 local volunteers to help create the CAT Oral History project. Each volunteer will receive oral history training from the British Library (given at CAT) and will interview at least four people. In total the oral histories of at least 80 people will be recorded and then delivered to the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, where they will be made available to the public. Oral history projects are very rewarding experiences for interviewees and interviewers; they provide participants with a unique connection to the past. All the oral histories we record during the project will contribute to a history book and during the project we hope to explore possible future projects to bring CAT’s past to life, perhaps through local events and performance. Join us in this unique project. Contact me at The CAT oral history project is supported by GLASU.



Programme for Arts and Sustainability Fair

We’re really excited about the Arts and Sustainability event happening at at CAT tomorrow. With a photography workshop, comedy, music, visual arts trail, childrens activities, poetry, craft stalls, wood fired pizza, green woodcrafts, storytelling and talks there is a lot to be excited about!

You can now download the full programme for the day here (or see below). Highlights include:

– Comedy from the acclaimed performer ‘Pete the Temp

– Photography workshop with award winning photo journalist Glenn Edwards

– Wind Band

– Arts trail involving nine artists

– Childrens activities, wide games, storytelling

– Green woodworking demonstrations and workshops


Get creative and experience local talent at CAT Arts event on 29th August

A whole host of artists will be exhibiting at CAT on the 29th August as part of an Arts and Sustainability Fair. The day-long event will include creative activities for children and adults as well as a diverse Arts Trail around the CAT site and a craft fair.

The Arts Trail will exhibit the works of more than a dozen diverse artists around the Centre for Alternative Technology Visitor Centre. There will be several exhibits from local artists including painting from Julia Wilson, photography from Amanda Jackson, participatory green woodworking with Joseph Bloor and CAT staff, an art installation from Buddug J Francis, impressionist painting by Marie-Genevieve Pierre, a fresco by Julie Jones and a nomadic studio from Sarah Poland.

A series of workshops will be open to all visitors at no extra cost. Glenn Edwards, an award winning photojournalist who has worked for the Western Mail, Wales on Sunday, The Times and The Independent will be running a digital photography workshop for visitors at 2pm – so bring your camera along. Visitors will also be able to get a taster of green woodworking, poetry writing, storytelling, rag rug making and illustration.

There will be lots of activities for children too at Arts and Sustainability Fair, including wide games across the site, storytelling, illustration workshops and other creative activities. Children and Adults will be able to enjoy live music and pizza tasting from the earth oven.

The Arts and Sustainability Fair will bring together local people interested in the role of art and creativity in creating a sustainable future. The Arts and Sustainability Fair is part of Festival of the Future at CAT – six weeks of fun and inspiring activities at CAT for adults and children.

Don’t forget to enter our photography competition if you are visiting CAT throughout Festival of the Future. Send entries to for the chance to win a £50 Short Courses voucher.

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.

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!

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.


CAT’s Energy Day to celebrate positive change towards a brighter energy future


This August 8th CAT will host Energy Day as part of its six-week Festival of the Future. Energy Day aims to celebrate positive change towards a brighter future with a family-oriented day of interactive energy workshops, panel discussions with leading environmental thinkers, presentations from CAT experts, talks, and energy-themed kids activities and games.

August 8th will see CAT transformed for this one-day event exploring energy and its role in shaping our lives into the future. Visitors will get to grips with renewable technologies in ‘behind-the-scenes’ tours of CAT’s on-site renewables. Householders can discover more about how they can make small, achievable changes in their homes and communities to support the transition to a more sustainable and energy efficient society. Friends of the Earth and Practical Action will contextualise the energy debate in talks on the UK’s energy policy and renewable energy and development, and the Guardian’s John Vidal will lead an insightful panel discussion on our energy futures.

CAT’s own Zero Carbon Britain research team and experts will be on hand to discuss sustainable solutions to our current energy scenario, whilst renewable energy companies and representatives from community energy projects will be here to share their industry experience.

The day will also be packed full of entertainment for children and young people. Energy-themed workshops and activities will take place throughout the day, and specially designed wide-games for kids and adults will be taking place across the CAT site. There will also be film screenings, music from a bike-powered sound system and pizza fresh from a wood-fired earth pizza oven.

CAT’s External Relations director, Paul Allen, said “re-thinking energy offers us a wide range of new opportunities, not least in terms of employment. Careers in both energy saving and generation from renewable energy sources offer exciting opportunities and can encourage young people to explore science, technology, engineering and maths whilst also working to protect the planet.”

While currently only a small amount of our energy originates from renewable sources, public support for renewable energy is growing. CAT’s Energy Day celebrates the small changes we can all make towards building a brighter and sustainable future together.

Visit Festival of the Future: Six weeks of fun and inspiration at CAT


Today we unveil our summer plans: CAT will be hosting a six week ‘Festival of the Future’ for tens of thousands of visitors. Daily activities for all the family and a programme of special one-day events mean a day trip to the Centre for Alternative Technology this August could inspire a revolution in the way you live.

Festival of the Future takes place throughout the school summer holidays from 21st July until 31st August. Daily activities will incorporate creative renewable energy and sustainability themed activities for children, with talks and informative tours led by staff and researchers at CAT for adults. Every Wednesday will see special events for kids and adults such as storytelling and specialist tours of CAT’s renewable energy systems.

Two one-day special events will form the climaxes of the summer programme: Energy Day on the 8th August and an Arts and Sustainability Fair on the 29th August. Both days will be packed full of informative and inspiring activities and entertainment including stalls, music, workshops, storytelling, exhibitions, guest speakers and more, all themed around building a brighter, more sustainable future for the UK and beyond.

We will be posting a series of articles on the blog on the theme of Festival of the Future.

This packed summer programme aims to provide a fun and active day out for families and other visitors to CAT, but also to give people ideas about the positive contribution they can make to a sustainable future.

Visitors will be able to meet face to face with some of the experts from CAT who will be giving guided tours and hosting engaging discussions about eco-lifestyle changes and action that people can take in their own community to respond to bigger picture challenges.

Allan Shepherd, author of CAT’s latest book The Home Energy Handbook will be one of the CAT staff members talking to visitors. Allan said:

“There are loads of positive things that people can do to help build more sustainable communities that are fun to take part in. Festival of the Future is a great opportunity for people to come and learn a bit more about sustainable futures as well as picking up tips on everything from eco-friendly living to getting involved in your local community. It should be entertaining as well as inspiring.”

All the events going on as part of Festival of the Future are included in the normal CAT entrance fee. The Visitor Centre also has a restaurant serving delicious vegetarian food and a shop selling books and gifts. A full programme of Festival of the Future events, which run from 21st July to 31st August, can be found on the website: Festival of the Future is sponsored by Good Energy, the UK’s only 100% renewable electricity supplier.



Zero Carbon Britain recognised as ‘inspirational’ in RenewableUK’s inaugural Energy Awards


The Centre for Alternative Technology’s pioneering project Zero Carbon Britain has been recognised in RenewableUK’s first Energy Awards

Zero Carbon Britain receieved the Renewables Campaigner Award, which recognises “campaigning excellence and leadership in winning public support for renewable energy.” The project, which is now entering a new phase of research, provides a clear policy framework for rapidly decarbonising the UK.

RenewableUK described the project as “an inspirational movement for change in the UK,” celebrating its positive, practical message in a ceremony in London on Wednesday night.

Paul Allen, Project Co-Ordinator for Zero Carbon Britain, said that “as the Rio+20 conference reminds us all of the urgent need to rise to our environmental challenges, the Centre for Alternative Technology us proud that our Zero Carbon Britain research has been recognised by the prestigious RenewableUK Energy Awards.

Integrating cutting edge research across a wide range of sectors, Zero Carbon Britain explores our options for rising to the scale and speed of the challenges defined by our most recent science. It clearly illustrates the parallel de-carbonisation and re-vitalisation of the UK’s economy, creating a single document of immediate relevance to citizens, communities, businesses and policy makers everywhere.”

Maria McCaffery, RenewableUK Chief Executive, said “we created these awards to receognise and celebrate excellence in the wind and marine energy industries. The extraordinarily high calibre of the winners, and indeed of the all those nominated, shows there is a great deal to celebrate. The awards pay tribute to these inspiring examples of tenacity and success.”

We need more engineers for the growing renewable sector

“We need more engineers for the growing renewable sector,” says the Centre for Alternative Technology after five years of teaching renewable energy.

As the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) celebrates its fifth generation of graduates from their renewable energy masters course, they are warning of a growing skills gap in building the green economy.

In the five years since CAT set up one of the first renewable energy masters courses in the UK, the renewable energy industry has grown massively. Between 2007 and 2010, government figures show that the total capacity of onshore wind power installed in the UK has almost doubled, and there is more than three times as much offshore wind. The amount of solar PV capacity has ballooned from 18MW in 2007 to almost 600MW at then end of 2011. There are already around 8,600 jobs in the wind industry alone, and predictions this could rise to more than 11,600 jobs under government projections.

Arthur Butler, tutor on the MSc Renewable Energy and the Built Environment (REBE) course at CAT said:

“There is a growing demand for engineers with the skills to install and maintain the renewable capacity we need to build the green economy that the UK has already signed up to. At CAT most of of the teachers on our popular masters degree programmes still practice as consultants and specialists within the industry meaning they are always up-to-date with developing technologies and practices.

“Current UK and European Union energy policy is committed to increasing the proportion of energy we use from renewable sources; this not only assists to increase energy security and reduce emissions, but also creates investment and job opportunities within the renewable energy sector. From planning, consultancy, manufacturing, engineering, construction, operations and start-up companies there is a wide range of employment prospects within the industry.

“On the course students receive their lectures from leading professionals. There is a strong emphasis on practical skills alongside theoretical work meaning that people complete the course with the skills they need to jump straight into employment.”

Students at CAT’s graduate school of the environment achieve extremely high academic standards as well as very relevant practical skills. 99 students submitted theses for assessment in June, over 70% of them achieved a merit or a distinction. The courses are accredited by the University of East London.

Richard West is a current student on the Renewable Energy and the Built Environment course. Before taking the course he worked in IT but he is taking the course part time alongside working in the construction industry in a technical role. He said:

“I’ve never had a job that is any way worthwhile until now. I never had a job that I felt made the world any better – this gives me the potential to do that.

“All the people here who are involved in the course have practical experience of actually working with the technologies that they are teaching us about. They are not geeks from universities who have learned about these things and are teaching us from text books. The are actually engineers who live in the real world, who consult on commercial situations and who understand how things change because they work in this world. They also understand all the regulatory changes because they are affected by them every day and they pass it onto us.

“The diversity of students is incredible. They are different ages – everything from recent graduates to retires. We’ve got people with an enormously broad spectrum of world experience and work experience and they all bring something to the table and you can learn something from all of them so just sitting round chatting to them is absolutely fascinating.”

Becca graduated last year and used the course to get back into the engineering industry after a break from the sector. She said:

“I put a CV out on a job site and one of the job agencies came back to me and said ‘how would you feel about doing some more studying – one of the companies is quite interested in you but you have been out of engineering a long time’. And I said ‘Yeah – I’d take their hand off’ and then I thought god, I actually meant that.

“I started work a couple of weeks after I did my first REBE module with a building services firm… since I graduated I’ve moved into the climate change and renewables team. So I’m still doing some buildings energy, using my existing knowledge on that, but I’m getting to do more specific renewable energy and also carbon management programmes. I’ve been involved in BREEAM looking at the more big picture sustainability stuff looking at things from every angle.

“I’ve recommended the course to one of my colleagues and they are now looking at doing it too.

“It gives me a chance to do something that I find fulfilling and meaningful.”

The REBE programme was developed in response to a real need for engineers to be trained theoretically and practically in renewable systems as they relate to the built environment. This is a growth area not only in Europe but through out the world as countries face up to the problems of fossil fuel depletion and climate change. The graduates of this programme are well equipped to meet these challenges.