WISE Up To A Sustainable Future

Centre for Alternative Technology launches its new eco-educational facility.

The Wales Institute for Sustainable Education (WISE) is CAT’s new, state of the art sustainable building. WISE will provide tens of thousands of people the opportunity to gain vital skills in emerging environmental technologies through its Graduate School of the Environment and short courses.

Jane Davidson, Welsh Assembly Minister for the Environment who opened the building said education and training are at the heart of our efforts to build a more sustainable future for Wales, which is why the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education’s role in delivering high quality training and education is so important.”

Photos Tim Soar ( copyright)

WISE combines renewable technologies with natural building materials such as rammed earth, hemp and lime with intelligent architecture to achieve a light, warm, energetic building that exudes a sense of well-being. The building design utilises energy efficient glazing to enhance natural day-lighting and passive heat gain, meaning that energy requirements are minimal. Waste and water systems are designed using natural zero energy treatment.

Paul Allen, Director of CAT said “CAT is a world-class training centre with 35 years of expertise and working examples of sustainable technologies. No organisation is better placed to deliver training essential to tackle climate change, no building is better built to host that training.”

The day began with the opening of a forest garden dedicated to Margaret Shepperd a long-term friend and supporter of CAT. Followed by an official opening of WISE and speeches from Jane Davidson, Lord Elis Thompsom, Presiding officer National Assembly of Wales and Sir John Houghton Former chair of the IPCC and Met office.

June 12th will be an open day at the CAT, come along and enjoy a day of celebration.

For photographs of the launch or more information please contact the CAT press office on 01654 705 957 or email kim.bryan@cat.org.uk

Slow worms

Rennie writes…

Morning Everyone, The arrival of warmer weather has brought the Slow worms ( Anguis fragilis ) out of their winter hibernation — I found one winding its way across the south drive the other day. It is very inappropriately named as it is certainly not a worm — although snake like in appearance it is in fact one of our three native species of lizard. It probably evolved into its legless form to enable it to burrow more effectively and it has the typical lizard’s ability to shed its tail to evade predators. Slow worms are a beautiful bronzy – gold colour and their skin has a lovely clean, cold quality to it – not slimy or wet as you might imagine from the glistening appearance.


I don’t encourage the handling of wild creatures unnecessarily but I can never resist the tactile experience of allowing a slow worm to slide gracefully through my fingers. Slow worms give birth to around 12 live young in the summer and can often be found under logs or debris in hot weather as they can overheat in high temperatures. Nerdy type fact : Some lizards and snakes give birth to live young, some lay leathery eggs which hatch out, but in fact the only difference is that former hatch out inside the mother’s body instead of outside. ( Slightly more complex than that , but more or less the way it works ).

Power and Place launch causes a buzz at Aberystwyth Arts Centre

4641819412_307efa9898A collaboration between CAT and the department of Film, Theatre and Television at Aberystwyth University, Power and Place is a documentary that explores the energy story of Wales, past and present. An inspiring insight into the growing sustainability movement in Wales Power and Place was produced for the Smithsonian festival in Washington DC 2008 where it was shown as part of CAT’s presentation to the American public on welsh culture and heritage. Power and Place premiered for the first time in the UK on friday. The film was shown in both it’s English and Welsh language versions to a diverse audience with a lively discussion and questions afterwards. Thanks go to Elan Closs Stephans, executive producer, and John Burgan, director, from Aberystwyth University whose valuable contributions helped this vision come to life. CAT are looking forward to further projects and collaborations in the future. Also look out for the distribution of the DVD from CAT soon. Continue reading “Power and Place launch causes a buzz at Aberystwyth Arts Centre”

Rennie writes,
Morning Everyone, besides the Redstart, the other summer visitor that has returned to CAT is the lovely Pied Flycatcher ( Latin name: Ficedula hypoleuca / Welsh name: Gwybedog Brith ) spotted by Grace in the trees behind the display gardens. This is one of the classic birds of Welsh woodland and although it can be difficult to spot as it spends a lot of its time hidden in the tree canopy, if you see a smallish black and white bird in a Welsh wood in summer it is almost certain to be a Pied Flycatcher.

The provision of nest boxes with hole openings can give a dramatic boost to the number of breeding pairs in woods and it looks as if all the boxes around site put up by Biology could pay real dividends. Although Flycatchers are so called because of their typical feeding behaviour of catching insects in flight, the Pied has a more varied technique than its commoner relative ( the Spotted Flycatcher ) and also searches the leaves and bark of trees for caterpillars and will probe the woodland floor for ants and beetles. But then I suppose the title of ‘ The Pied Flycaterpillarbeetleantandotherinsectcatcher ‘ would be a bit cumbersome. Incidentally just think — despite all the human activity on site, the Wise construction, the hundreds of visitors — right in the centre we have a thriving bird population including shyer ones like Redstarts and Flycatchers. We must be doing something right !! Cheers Rennie x

Wales Sustainability Week

Organic gardening at CATTime to get involved! Join in at CAT for Wales’ first ever Sustainability Week.

Although here at CAT it is sustainability week every week we welcome the Welsh Assembly Government’s push towards a sustainable future as they celebrate all the environmentally conscious movements happening across Wales. From ground-breaking research to renewable technologies, innovative discussions on sustainable living and inspiring examples of sustainability in practice, CAT invites you to share and learn during a week of courses, guided tours, activities and discussions. Some exciting events to look out for this week include a discussion led by Alice Cutler of the Trapese Collective on the outcome of the recent conference on Climate change and Mother Earth rights called by Evo Morales in Bolivia. Also the premier screening of Power and Place at Aberystwyth Arts Centre on Friday, a film made by CAT’s own Paul Allen and John Burgan of Aberystwyth University, detailing Wales’ rise towards sustainability from its fossil-fuelled industrial roots. Continue reading “Wales Sustainability Week”

CAT’s PV roof gets a new look, thanks to its neighbours at Dulas

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.”

Continue reading “CAT’s PV roof gets a new look, thanks to its neighbours at Dulas”

Comment on climate change in election negotiations. Dangerous situation if parties fail to discuss climate and energy policy

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.

For further comment please contact the media office: 01654 705953