Centre for Alternative Technology

Centre for Alternative Technology

KCS Advice strongly supports sustainable energy and use of renewables in building and construction. We thought however that readers may like some information about what is unarguably the UKs (and we would say the world’s) leading centre for environmental inspiration and skills and academic courses. The Centre for Alternative Technology near Machynlleth in the Mid/North West of Wales and is world renowned for its work.

We are here

We are here

The Centre for Alternative Technology is a visitor and education centre, which promotes practical solutions for sustainable living. The Centre for Alternative Technology covers every aspect of green living, environmentally friendly construction, eco sanitation, renewable energy systems, woodland management, organic food growing and energy efficiency. The Centre for Alternative Technology site in the hills is unique and is a valuable practical demonstration centre for sustainable living. The Centre for Alternative Technology is a living laboratory of sustainability and a living example of a cooperative way of living and working. The Centre for Alternative Technology has the biggest range of installed sustainable living systems anywhere.

Centre for Alternative Technology’s systems available to be seen by public include,

  • Photovoltaics
  • Solar thermal energy systems
  • The Centre for Alternative Technology micro-grid system
  • Off-grid and grid-connected electrical systems serving the Centre for Alterative Technology itself.
  • Biomass combined heat and power systems
  • Hydro electric
  • Air source heat pumps
  • A Centre for Alternative Technology community heat main
  • A range of small and medium wind turbines
  • An off mains water supply supplying the Centre for Alternative Technology
  • The Centre for Alternative Technology grounds are in use for extensive organic gardening.

 

The Centre for Alternative Technology ‘Quarry’ Site

Students enjoying learning new skills

Students enjoying learning new skills

The Centre for Alternative Technology Site is a practical demonstration centre for a large range of sustainable solutions. The Centre for Alternative Technology runs a visitor centre with its own displays and is a great and safe day out for all the family in its own confined grounds. But the Centre for Alternative Technology also runs a free information service answering any queries on sustainable living. The Centre for Alternative Technology on site Graduate Training School (some courses are run in association with Aberystwyth University),  offers highly valued postgraduate degrees in renewable energy and environmental architecture. The Centre for Alternative Technology itself also runs residential courses for builders plumbers, electricians, and engineers and provides curriculum based education services to visiting universities, schools and colleges. School students enjoy attending residential educational trips and living in the Centre for Alternative Technology eco cabins which also host educational outreach work, school visits and teacher training. The Centre for Alternative Technology also runs a residential volunteer programme where people come from all over the world to learn about sustainability and whilst there about living in a cooperative environment. The Centre for Alternative Technology also has its own shop and restaurant.

The Centre for Alternative Technology also runs the following permanent projects

  • Zero Carbon Britain – which is a series of research reports addressing how the UK, can eliminate all its carbon emissions completely, in 20 years.
  • Coed Gwern – which is a 15 acres of sustainably managed woodland project , and is home to a range of courses, and is managed for biodiversity.
  • Dyfi Biosphere – which is the only UNESCO Biosphere in Wales.

imgres-1The best treat that most visitors to the Centre for Alterative Technology remember and talk about however is the water balanced Cliff Railway which takes visitors into the Centre for Alternative Technology and into a new world of sustainability. The two carriages are linked together and one goes up into the Centre for Alternative Technology itself while the other comes down. When people need to go up, water flows into a tank in the top carriage until it’s heavy enough to pull it down. As the carriage ascends the views are breathtaking and are better still from the balcony above them when visitors enter the Centre for Alterative Technology itself. So the whole system in powered by gravity and the water, which is freely available in the hills and is stored in a lake in the Centre for Alternative Technology itself. The Centre for Alternative Technology lake is also the home to native species of fish and plants.

How the Centre for Alternative Technology started

images-4The past history of the Centre for Alternative Technology is as interesting as its present. The Centre for Alternative Technology was founded in 1973 in the Llwyngwern Slate Quarry near Machynlleth in the Mid/North West of Wales. Originally the Centre for Alternative Technology was a community for like-minded people who wanted to live according to eco friendly principles. The Centre for Alternative Technology visitor centre was a later addition. The Centre for Alterative Technology has been a huge asset to the small town of Machynlleth which is largely on the map because of its presence, although the town itself does have a longer history as the site of Owain Glyndwr’s 15th Century Welsh Parliament (the building is still there). The town was also a staging post on Henry 7ths long trek from Pembrokeshire to defeat Richard the Third at Bosworth Field

Volunteers worked long hours at first to get the Centre for Alternative Technology site established. The Centre for Alternative Technology was after all just a quarry. Liz Todd one of the early volunteers can remember wildlife running across tables when she first started dining there. The Centre for Alternative Technology is still the home to some of the tamest and (in the case of Robins) aggressive wild birds in the UK. The Centre for Alternative Technology also has Geese as ‘Guard Dogs’. The Centre for Alternative Technology prospered owing to its ethos and the willingness of like-minded people to come from all over the world to support it. The Centre for Alternative Technology Visitor Centre opened in 1975. The Centre for Alternative Technology is now the world’s leading eco centre and is staffed by volunteers and permanent employees all year round with a further 60 people on hand in the Summer months. The Centre for Alternative Technology benefits from over 65,000 visitors a year

When Gerard Morgan Grenville started the Centre for Alternative Technology it was intended as a community dedicated to environmentally friendly principles. There is still a residential community attached to the Centre for Alternative Technology but it’s no longer part of the visitor circuit. Centre for Alternative Technology members are its’ staff, their families and the volunteers. Centre for Alterative Technology residents live in a collection of four timber self build residences and five slate cottages which were on the original slate mine before it became the Centre for Alternative Technology. The Centre for Alterative Technology provides places for what it calls ‘long term volunteers’ who stay there for six months. Some of these live on the Centre for Alternative Technology site and some off it. The Centre for Alternative Technology principle is ‘global equity’. Centre for Alternative Technology staff and residents take decisions by consensus. They all pay their fortnightly ‘subs’, out of which they buy their weekly provisions. Everyone takes their turn at the chores and they come together for shared meals and for fun at camp fires, parties and music making. At the moment they have a long term objective of building a straw bale community kitchen.

The Centre for Alternative Technology community are not however by any means a bunch of naive woodland folk. They are all very media savvy and vigorously promote their objectives. Most have come to live in the location from areas where they could have been successful in a variety of careers but have gone there for the quality of life. They are for the most part highly educated and have wide ranging marketing, fund raising, publishing and Information Technology skills. The Centre for Alterative Technology is after all a recognised provider of Post Graduate Courses. But many of the Centre for Alternative Technology staff also have fantastic practical skills and everyone has her or his place. Although the Centre for Alternative Technology is a visitor centre visitors will see volunteers going about their practical works on the site and the staff are always willing to explain what they are doing. The site is like Shangri la in the summer but the writer of this article (who lives in Machynlleth) will not be letting anyone down by describing it as something of a mud pool on a wet January day.