We visited the CAT!


In the middle of May we came back from a wonderful trip to Wales and England – “we” standing for Del, Siri, Jules, Sasha and Sarah. Sarah had just finished her volunteering year with us and is back home now.

So, besides some lovely towns and the beauty of the fresh green countryside, the important destination for us was the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales.

We began the visit by a water-balanced funicular railway lift. Its particularity? It exploits the river current to store water in the top-cabin reservoir. The tank on the lower cabin is empty. It allows to move both cabins thanks to gravity.



Our visit allowed us to discover a lot of technical innovations in the energy sector (heat pump, solar panels, wind turbine, biomass), the green buildings, gardens, and biodiversity.


We finished with a very nice meal at the vegetarian café! This visit was very inspiring and gave us hope for a future of clean energy.


EVS expedition to Wales

A different experience: CYMRU

Cymru, the welsh name of Wales and Wales is known for its rugged coastline, mountainous national parks, distinctive language and Celtic culture.

I and another volunteer had the chance of visiting Wales, going from Holyhead through Snowdonia down to Lampeter. We went there to participate to the launch of the visitor centre of the Long Wood Community Woodland. This is a social enterprise based around the woodland, they manage timber, growing, cutting, selling in the community but also working as an educational and recreational centre. Now, they opened their visitor centre, all timber, solar panels and compost toilet! I was so happy to be present at the launch and find out how the participant perceives and relates with nature.

Visitor centre

Visitor centre

Also, our accommodation was in an Eco Lodge, Denmark Farm. More to admire here, because it’s an amazing place, a conservation centre where you have accommodation in the middle of wildlife in a place that fits so naturally in the environment. It runs on biomass and solar energy and they also has a system in place that saves water and treats waste water using natural processes.

The campsite has an outdoor wood kitchen and a compost toilet. If you don’t have a tent you can rent the ‘Yurt’. What is a yurt? Is a Mongolian portable round tent. Traditionally it is covered with animals’ skins, sustained by wood, and is used as a dwelling by nomads in Central Asia.

The yurt in the camping site is the modern version, very spacious, has place for 4 persons but can have extra beds, it’s heated with wood stove and it keeps the heat in a very efficient way. Also if the sun is shining it gets very, very warm. You can admire the stars at night through the wheel on the roof that sustains the frame.

It’s an amazing place to really be in nature, forget about electricity, internet find other ways to entertain yourself, have nature walks, enjoy quality time with others.

At least for some days…then back to technology otherwise I won’t be able to write this post!

The trip made me more aware of the possibilities that nature offers us through biomass, very useful for my current research!

Amazing Wales…I was impressed to see that people there speak Welsh and kids are going to bilingual schools so they preserve their old language through time.

They care about nature, they are very proud of their green forests and the Snowdonia mountains.

The place and the people made me feel very cosy and welcomed, I can also say there are similarities with the Irish atmosphere and that is normal since we are talking about a Celtic culture.


An overview of fracking in the EU


The European Union lacks a common policy on fracking. Some countries are convinced supporters while others have banned it for safety and environmental reasons. This disagreement between the member states prevented the passing of a Directive regulating shale gas exploitation, resulting in the European Commission being restricted to adopting certain “recommendations“.

Recently the European Parliament published a briefing document highlighting the fracking policies of the members states. There are three groups: those that support fracking, those against, and those that still don’t know if they support or not. The UK is a very particular case, because it lies on both sides of the divide.  The following summarises the report:

Countries supporting frackingiIPFxxAvBxys

England (UK).  The British Government is in a “dash for gas”, despite some of the governing coalition MPs supporting a ban on fracking due to its environmental and health impacts. During the parliamentary debate, the Government accepted a Labour amendment that banned fracking from 40% of the shale gas areas previously offered for exploration.

Northern Ireland (UK).  The Stormont Executive has issued four exploratory licences that include the possibility of fracking. Two of them are still active. Drilling is about to take place in Ballinlea, near the Giant’s Causeway, and in Carrickfergus, beside a water reservoir near Belfast. Another licence was terminated by the Government but it is still open for new companies to apply.

Poland. This country has the largest resources in Europe, according to the US Energy Information Authority. However, the first exploration wells have shown disappointing results, and prompted some operators e.g. Chevron and Exxon, to leave Poland.  New laws to facilitate fracking have been passed but in June 2014 the EU Commission “opened legal proceedings against Poland, on the grounds that the new law infringes the environmental impact assessment (EIA) directive by allowing drilling at depths of up to 5000 metres without having assessed the potential environmental impact.”

Denmark. Despite being one the main promoter of renewable energies in Europe, Denmark approved exploratory drilling in 2014.

Spain. Spanish government supports shale gas development after putting a break on renewable energy development. Some of the regions have tried to ban fracking, but the Constitutional Court have declared that those moratoriums are unconstitutional.

Lithuania. The European Parliament report shows that this Baltic country “is the process of introducing “investor-friendly shale gas regulations”, but companies like Chevron “pulled out the country citing an uncertain legal framework”.

Romania. This country lifted an earlier ban in 2013 and is supportive of shale gas. The reports point out the “Chevron started exploratory drilling in  in May 2014”.


Countries against

Bulgaria. In January 2012 this country imposed a moratorium on fracking and revoked licences for shale gas exploration.

France. In 2013 French Constitutional Court upheld a ban on fracking approved two years before. France has some of the largest estimated shale gas reserves in Europe but President François Hollande has promised to maintain the ban on fracking as long as he is in office.

Scotland (UK). In January 2015 the Scottish Government called for a moratorium on fracking.  “This moratorium will continue until such time as the work I have set out to Parliament today, including a full public consultation and a full public heatlth impact assesment, is completed”, Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said. Moreover, Scotland is expecting to get control over minerals rights in the enlargement of Home Rule promised after the independence referedum last year.

Wales (UK).  The Welsh Assembly called the Government to do “everything within its power to prevent fracking from taking place in Wales until it is proven to be safe in both an environmental and public health context.” The Welsh Government wants to achieve the same level of control over mineral rights as Scotland.




Ireland. Our country declared a moratorium on fracking in 2012, when the Government decided not to issue any licences until the completion of a 2-years research program. Three licensing option were granted in 2010, but no decision will be made until 2017, when the research is finished.

Germany. The biggest European economy still doesn’t have a policy on fracking. The president of the Federal Environmental Agency said that “as long as there are no firm statements on the risks of this technology and how they can be controlled, there should be no fracking activity in Germany for the purpose of shale and coalbed gas extraction”. “But fracking has not been prohibited“, she remarked.

Netherlands. The European Parliament report points out that “shale gas exploration in the Netherlands gas been suspended, while a study to be completed in 2015 on its environmental and social effects is carried out.


® All rights reserved to GEAI 2018