Bitter winter temperatures really put CAT’s well-insulated buildings to the test this week, a situation which wasn’t helped by me losing my hat, gloves and scarf on the train from Bristol! Fortunately I survived the week with all my extremities intact and un-frostbitten, and as a bonus the landscape around CAT is absolutely stunning in winter. It’s certainly a far cry from any other university I’ve seen!
This month’s subject was wind power, so we delved into the mysteries of Betz’ theorem, mass flow rate and tip speed ratios. As always at CAT, the course took us all the way from the basic physics of wind power, through the pros and cons of different turbines and blade design to electrical safety and how to connect to the grid.
In addition to CAT’s core teaching staff, we are often taught by guest lecturers who specialise in a particular field. This month we were lucky enough to be taught by Hugh Piggott, who has been building his own wind turbines for over 30 years. Hugh has an amazing depth of knowledge of wind power, and his home-made turbines power most of his local community in Scoraig, Scotland. As a break from all the physics and electrical theory, Hugh ran a workshop to teach us how to carve our own wind turbine blades. Turns out it’s harder than you’d think! If you want to have a go yourself, check out Hugh’s blog at www.scoraigwind.co.uk.
The days are pretty long at CAT (9:30 am to 8 pm, generally), so we’re all glad of a bit of R and R in the evenings. One of the best parts of studying at CAT is the fact that all the staff and students live together on site for each week-long module, giving the place a very social atmosphere. It also means that you can completely immerse yourself in the subject, and as the other students come from such a range of backgrounds you’re constantly exposed to new ideas. It also means there’s usually someone around to explain the more difficult lectures to me!
This being our December visit we had a Christmas party in the bar, complete with a wonderful (vegetarian, natch) Christmas dinner courtesy of the CAT chefs. There were a few sore heads the next morning – mine included – but most people were well enough to take a trip to the nearby Mynydd Gorddu wind farm. All in all it was a great week, and I can’t wait to come back in January!