When I first visited CAT, in the early 1980s, there was hardly anyone else there. Several years later it is full of interested people and rightly so as many sensible people realize that we are all living an unsustainable, technology-trap life-style. We rely on high technology (which few understand or can fix when it goes wrong) a little too much and at our own peril. The Centre for Alternative Technology is organically grown in a disused slate quarry near Machynlleth and is the mulch where alternative ways of living are developed using low-technology materials and ingenious ideas. Visiting again, from Sheffield in the mid1990s, it looked even more like a green diamond in the heart of Wales.
A creatively and newly decorated water-turbine casing makes an attractive focal point. Its real use was to guide water to the turbine blades that turn the electricity generator and there is plenty of water in Wales at the moment. Water-powered electricity generation is probably more reliable than wind in temperate Britain and should be used to complement wind-powered electricity production. The environmental cost is absolutely minimal.
This root storage cellar consumes no electricity. Root vegetables and many others can be stored in one of these over the winter months. Think how much electricity would be saved nationally if more of us, who could, relied on these instead of high energy-consuming refrigerators.
This ecohouse at CAT has a full-wall passive solar collector to collect free solar energy. The capital costs can soon be recouped with one of these - even in damp Wales and it doesn’t need any moving parts. Below the glazed wall is an array of photo-voltaic cells to convert light into low-voltage electricity. At the moment, they are too expensive to recoup the capital cost within a few years but they are coming down in cost every year. The more people who buy and use them the lower the cost should be.
Drawing potable water from a well every day would make us realize how precious water is and what high value we should all give it. It is also good exercise, which more and more people need now. Without potable water we would all die in a few days. Well water - if you can find any now which is free from farming pollutants and poisons - has a clean taste that makes our tap water taste like chemical waste - which most of it is now - especially if drawn from many of our increasingly polluted rivers.
There is an archive of images and documents about CAT available at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.