The Centre for Alternative Technology first installed its Photovoltaic (PV) roof over 15 years ago. When it was first built it was the largest PV array in the UK , covering up to 112sq meters and generating up to 13.5 kilowatts. It has provided CAT with clean, constant source of electricity ever since. As of October 2006 the roof has produced 2885 KWH- enough energy to power eight houses and saved over 14 tonnes of carbon emissions.
Unfortunately over the last few years the frame on which the PV panels are mounted has deteriorated. But thanks to neighbouring company Dulas, the roof is getting a revamp and the PV panels remounted using new technology in order to enable the solar panels to carry on producing electricity.
“The work of CAT is vital in informing, inspiring and enabling practical solutions for sustainable living. We have been delighted to lend a hand in repairing the solar roof and giving this valuable resource a new lease of life .” Dulas , which is based in Machynlleth , is a world-renowned renewable energy company. Dulas started 28 years ago as part of the Centre for Alternative Technology but has since gone on to become its own company with expertise in biomass, wind energy, solar, and hydro installations. Dulas have begun work on the PV roof at CAT to replace the old frame, donating materials and time for free.
Kate Blair at CAT said “We are enormously grateful to Dulas for their help. Dulas and CAT enjoy a long standing relationship and it is fantastic that they have offered their expertise to redo the PV roof ahead of the opening of our new eco-educational facility the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education.”
by Alex Randall
Climate change has slid of the agenda at party negotiations. We’ve seen maybe one mention that climate has been discussed in talks – but that’s about it. This is enormously problematic because the coalition talks seem to be focusing on very short term problems – the deficit, short range economic recovery. But it’s actually the issues that require long term planning, like tackling climate change, that need to be thrashed out. Without that discussion you can imagine a situation where some agreement is reached between two parties on a small number of issues that need to be dealt with soon – but then they fall out and fail to deal with a big topic like climate change a few years down the line.
Even a quick glance over the manifestos of the three parties demonstrates significant differences in how they would tackle climate change. For example all three have very different approaches to renewable energy. Unless these issues are given adequate attention in the negotiations then there is massive potential for big disagreements later. Given what is at stake we hope that the parties keep climate change on the agenda during their talks.
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There are two possibilities, according to President Evo Morales of Bolivia: “Either capitalism dies, or Mother Earth dies. We choose Pachamama, or death.”
He was opening the first ever World People’s Summit on Climate Change and Mother Earth’s Rights. “The principal cause of climate change is capitalism,” he told the conference in Cochabamba, Bolivia. “It seeks the highest profit possible, promoting endless growth on a finite planet.”
Conference participants took part in 17 working groups from 19 to 22 April, roughly mirroring the UN process. Groups discussed topics such as the structural causes of climate change, mitigation financing or technology transfer.
The final declaration produced by the working groups was ambitious – demanding rich countries reduce their emissions by 50% between 2012 and 2017, reducing CO2 in the atmosphere to 300 parts per million (it is currently at approximately 391ppm) to keep warming below 1°C compared to pre-industrial levels (currently approximately 0.8°C). Other proposals include unconditional financing for poor countries, equivalent to 6% of rich countries GDP.
After a spell of rain or a summer shower, snails appear from out of their nooks and crannies in search of food -much to the annoyance of gardeners as they make a bee line (or should that be a snail line) for all your carefully tended young plants – but don’t dismiss the humble snail as just an uninteresting pest – if you take a closer look they are quite fascinating creatures.
There are several species of snail apart from the familiar Garden or Common snail. Look out for the Glossy Glass snail with a thin translucent shell and deep blue colouring on its body. Then there are the two ‘punk’ species, whose shells are covered with patches of ‘ hairs ‘ – the Hairy snail and the Silky snail.
By Julie Bromilow – CAT Education
If you read my ‘Get your Oats’ blog in a fever of excitement, you will be wondering how we got on with our cereal tour of mid Wales….
Myself, CAT biology wizard Grace Crabb, and student placement volunteer Wendy Williams who has been researching low carbon food solutions for CAT, joined forces with Jane Powell from Organic Centre Wales, who had planned the itinerary, which we discussed over coffee and flapjack at the Treehouse, the famed Aberystwyth organic café.
We began with some winter wheat trials in the university fields. There were several types of wheat and barley, and many Turkish varieties. High protein wheat, favoured by modern, industrial scale bread makers, grows best in hot dry climates. High protein bread making flour began to be imported to Wales from Canada in the 19th century.
We then continued to Felin Ganol at Llanrhystud for a jaw dropping experience. Anne and Andy Parry bought this old derelict mill a few years ago, on account of the nice garden and granny annexe. Having discovered that they had inherited a water mill with all the parts still on site, they set to restoring it. It is now a working water powered organic registered flour mill, and they would like nothing more than to mill locally grown grains. At present, they are mostly using Doves Farm grains, currently imported from Kazakhstan due to a shortage of British supply.
And then on to another inspirational couple – Mike and Maggie of Mairs Bakehouse, in Carmarthenshire. By now it was bleak weather, and the bakehouse was high in the remote and drizzly beautiful moors so walking into the kitchen was a warm and cosy delight. Completely off the grid, their electricity is provided by wind, and the very efficient purpose build oven is fuelled by wood. The bakery specialises in sourdough and old yeast sponge variety breads, and Mike and Maggie run their business from a health perspective – they want to provide tasty bread that everyone can eat, no matter what their dietary requirements. The oven and large batches of loaves require round the clock commitment – fortunately, passion and commitment are not in short supply.
In terms of our project mission perhaps the most positive news was to discover that these traditionally baked loaves made at a cottage industry scale, do not require high protein imported flour. Mike and Maggie buy most of their flour from Lincolnshire, some from Anne and Andy at Llanrhystud, and are hopeful, as are we all, that there will be an opportunity to use locally grown grains in the future.
There are so many spectacular wild life sights in this area at this time of the year it’s a job to pick which one to draw your attention to — the Red Kite soaring high above the mountains, the amazing spectacle of aerial skill as a flock of starlings come in to roost, the lightening fast swoop of the Peregrine as it hurtles earthwards etc. etc. — so I thought we would consider the Dandelion today.
The roadside verges are a mass of golden colour at present as the dandelions are in full bloom but have you ever looked a little closer at these familiar flowers? In fact the ‘flower heads’ are complex structures made up of tiny florets which look like a single flower. Look a bit closer — is it a dandelion or a lesser dandelion ( found in drier areas ), a Marsh dandelion ( wet areas), a red – veined dandelion or is it perhaps a Hawk’s beard ( in which case is it a Stinking Hawk’s beard or a Marsh Hawk’s beard ) or is it a Hawkweed ( in which case is it a Mouse ear Hawkweed or a Leafy Hawkweed ) or is it a Hawkbit or ???? Ok I can practically hear you all yawning, so back to the basic common or garden dandelion ( Welsh name Dant y llew– tooth of the lion– because of its jagged leaf edges ) An old vernacular name is Jack -piss- the – bed — a reference to its well known diuretic properties. It is also an extremely useful plant — the leaves can be used as an alternative to lettuce in salads, the flowers ( traditionally picked on 23rd April St Georges day) make one of the best flower wines, the roots can be dried and ground to make a coffee substitute and perhaps most importantly of all the hollow stems can be transformed into a sort of whistle type thing which produces impressive raspberries when blown properly.
What better way to spend a summer evening than getting sloshed on last years dandelion wine and then sitting in a circle blowing raspberries at each other — well it works for me !
Oh yes and the humble dandelion probably inspired Shakespeare ( a well known writer apparently ) to come up with the much quoted lines : Golden lads and girls all must / As chimney sweeps all come to dust
We’re looking for an experienced and innovative campaigner to mobilise support for ‘Zero Carbon Britain 2030’, our new vision for delivering energy security & re-vitalising the economy, whilst setting a global lead in acting on climate change.
We’re looking for someone who wants to work with people who are beyond ‘the usual suspects’ and mobilise support to take Zero Carbon Britain 2030 to the highest levels of government.
You’ll be a focused and strategic thinker who can design a campaign to have maximum effect in short period of time.You’ll have practical experience of how to communicate issues with different audiences in an engaging way. You’ll have a sound understanding of how to engage the public on climate issues and motivate them to take action. You’ll have experience of working with civil society, community organisations and progressive business and you’ll understand how to turn interest into activity and empower people to help us communicate Zero Carbon Britain at the highest levels.
For some back ground on Zero Carbon Britain watch this short video:
By Julie Bromilow – CAT Education Department
I and a colleague Jo Gwillim represented CAT at the Big Tent festival last July by giving a Zero Carbon Britain talk. At the festival I was impressed by the focus on food, and enjoyed sampling the array of tasty local produce – I just couldn’t get those oatcakes out of my head.
The germ of an idea kept coming back to niggle me – how can we regenerate an interest in growing grains for human consumption?
The chapter on land use in Zero Carbon Britain 2030 clearly details the challenges and some solutions we are faced with – a scenario for how we can manage our land to produce all the food, resources, and energy that we need, conserve our biodiversity, and all importantly sequester excess emissions produced by other sectors. As part of this scenario, we would expect a significant reduction of our current meat and dairy production and intake, with a focus on quality not quantity. This means that we will need to shift the current agricultural model from its current high density of livestock to one that is lower in livestock but richer in fruit, vegetables, legume and grain production.