Tag Archives: wind energy

Centre for Alternative Technology Revisited

In his latest blog Sean looks back at visits to the Centre for Alternative Technology

It must be about 16 years since I was last at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT)  near Machynlleth in Mid Wales.

For those that don’t know of it, it’s a pioneering education charity based in a former slate quarry, which has used the site to trial a number of alternative technologies over the years, and today it is using many of them still to power the site.

When I visited the Centre for Alternative Technology in the early days of Ethos public relations it was to discuss an ethical online web portal, which one of our clients was involved in. Times have certainly changed as far as the internet is concerned and, no doubt, that’s true in the field of alternative energy technologies too.

View from water balanced cliff railway at Centre for Alternative TechnologyI remember arriving at the site of CAT the first time, after a beautiful train journey from Manchester, and being impressed by the water-balanced cliff railway which takes you from road level up to the visitor centre.

As with many of the technologies showcased at CAT, the cliff railway works using the simplest of technologies, namely gravity. The two carriages are linked by a steel rope and when one goes down due to the combined weight of its passengers and water tank, the other carriage travels up the cliff face, with some stunning views.

On my recent visit, another ancient technology was being displayed, though with a modern twist. Burning wood for cooking and heating can hardly be described as an alternative technology, given that millions of people around the world rely on it day in and day out, but at CAT there is an innovative display of boilers that use wood pellets to produce both electricity and heat. Obviously, managed properly wood is a sustainable fuel and so provides an alternative to fossil fuels. If we want to work towards a zero carbon economy, then this might be part of the solution.

For many years, I have thought that solar panels for domestic and industrial premises should be fitted as a matter of course instead of roofing tiles, rather than on top of an existing roof. At CAT, that’s what they have on the café.

Solar panel roof at Centre for Alternative Technology

Over the past 16 years many things have changed dramatically in the field of low carbon energy generation, whether that is the growth of offshore wind energy generation or the increasing number of homes with photovoltaic cells on their roofs, but what we still have not seen is a widespread belief in using alternative technologies from the start of a project rather than as an add on.

But there still seems to be a lot of antipathy to wind and solar, in spite of their obvious benefits. Ethos public relations has worked with community biodiesel and community wind energy operators in the past and have, in a very small way, helped get the message out about the benefits of reducing carbon dependency. There is still much to be done.

So keep up the good work CAT, keep promoting the alternatives and helping to put sustainability into practice…

An uphill PR struggle for fracking

Wind turbine

More needs to be done to develop renewable technologies such as wind energy.

Latest blog from Shaun.

News that the Government is stepping up its campaign to promote fracking through financial incentives to local authorities and communities has reignited the debate about this controversial energy source. However, in my opinion, supporters of fracking will have an uphill struggle to persuade the public.

From a PR point of view, it all starts with the name. Has there ever been a more apocalyptic sounding source of energy?! Even if it was the most benign process ever, it would still ring alarm bells to me. The thought of doing “fracking” or “hydraulic fracturing” to anything makes me think that some serious damage must be being done somewhere.

The second thing is that it is likely to take place mainly in the countryside, often on the edge of villages or towns. Recent research shows that the overwhelming majority of people don’t want fracking on their doorstep, and we’ve already seen significant demonstrations where fracking is proposed, which are only likely to get worse.

In addition, evidence demonstrates that fracking causes earth tremors and may also lead to water contamination and pollution. Until we know more, I think most people would be pretty alarmed to think that fracking could lead to problems like these where they and their families live. In fact, as fracking has been banned in France, surely the process itself should be a cause for concern in this country too?

These days, most people accept that human-made climate change is taking place, so it is puzzling why the Government is looking to subsidise new and controversial fossil fuels which contribute to carbon emissions. It’s a shame that, despite all the warning signs, they are still thinking more about short term profit than protecting the environment for future generations. There is no guarantee that fracking will bring down energy bills and, given the set up of the energy market, I should think lower bills are highly unlikely. Besides, is cheaper energy from fossil sources something we should be aiming for?

Of course the obvious question after all this is, if not fracking then what? A head-in-the-sand energy policy in this country for many years has left us desperate for new energy sources. However, I still think much more needs to be done to develop renewable, carbon-neutral technologies, rather than new fossil fuels, and I for one would much prefer a wind turbine at the bottom of my street than a fracking rig!