The most recent module I studied at CAT concerned small scale, community wind power. Earlier, we’d looked at bigger wind power projects in the double wind power module.
As usual, it was a packed week, starting on Tuesday evening with Rob Gwillim leading a series of lectures on everything we could possibly want to know about small scale wind power. We learnt about site assessments, discovering which sites were most desirable and why. Then get got to grips with the technical stuff – how the power was created and fed into a grid, or stand alone network, as well as getting an overview of the mechanical workings behind the blades.
While some of the extremely clever students tried to catch Rob out with their questions, they failed miserably; I do believe that Rob knows everything about anything he lecturers on!
We were fortunate to have wind power expert Hugh Piggott as a guest lecturer. Hugh – a one-time CAT student who has written a popular book about building your own wind turbine – showed us how to design the blades. We were shown the most favourable lift/drag ratios, and then delved into the realms of stand alone (ie, not connected to the grid) wind turbines.
We learnt about the Environmental Impact Assessment process from Dr Ruth Stevenson who drew on her experience from the various projects she has worked on. We also learnt some very valuable things about public opposition to wind farms, and how to gain the community’s trust.
Our final stellar guest lecturer was Duncan Kerridge from Dulas, who told us about his involvement with community wind power developments. Duncan inspired us with his tales of working in both Wales and Zimbabwe, where his work has had an amazing positive impact – locals can now access electricity generated by a small wind turbine.
The weather was on our side during this module, so we enjoyed our breaks in the sun. The jenga blocks in the restaurant courtyard got a lot of use, though I think I played what must have been the shortest game possible! We also explored the surrounding areas, having a look at the three large wind turbines in the hills behind CAT, and visiting a 19 turbine wind farm at nearby Mynydd Gorddu.
We also did a lot of hands-on work during this module, choosing three practicals from five options. We had the option of carving a blade from wood, undertaking initial site analyses, wiring up a wind turbine to a battery and analysing the amount of energy generated, erecting a wind turbine and finally foundation design.
This module really reinforced for me how much I like wind farms. They’re so pragmatic – their form is based on their function, and they have a very sculptural aesthetic quality.
I’ve really enjoyed the modules I’ve attended. There’s definitely something for everyone, and I’ve found that this course has both awakened and sharpened my skills. And while I don’t think I’ll ever truly get to grips with Harvard referencing, I definitely feel more confident in my convictions. The conversations with fellow students continue to be a huge source of inspiration and entertainment!
I finally have a Thesis topic and need to prepare a proposal to present and hopefully get agreed during the next module I attend. Then all I have to do is research it and write it! I’m looking forward to the challenge.