What's to see
"Marvellous place! Lots of inspiration. Will come again!"
Elspeth Hopper, Birmingham
Along with a range of interactive displays, there are working examples of environmentally responsible buildings, renewable energy generation, sustainability in the home, organic growing, composting and waste management, each demonstrating what we can do to reduce our impact on the planet. At a time when news about the environment can be gloomy and pessimistic, we aim to put forward a positive solutions-based approach to looking after our planet. These displays are not just for show; they are part of a thriving, sustainable organisation run on renewable energy generated on site.
There are children's play areas throughout the centre and plenty of open space where visitors can enjoy the enchanting natural surroundings.
To complement the site we have an extensive programme of events and tours throughout the year, the majority of which are included in the ticket price. There is also an Information Centre on site where you can get free advice on sustainable living.
There are plenty of opportunities to find inspiration, learn about sustainability and get hands-on with our displays, but CAT also provides an environment where visitors can simply relax.
Throughout 2012, the visitor centre is undergoing renovations. We are doing our best to minimise disruptions to the visitor centre. However, new displays might be installed or old displays removed before your visit. Please check these pages again or call our information line on 01654 705950 if you're interested in a very specific display.
Get carried away with the wind
The wind turbines in and around CAT vary from tiny turbines of a foot across, suitable for charging a battery in a boat or caravan; through to mid-range turbines which could provide power to a remote cottage; up to a large-scale turbine, capable of generating enough energy to meet the needs of 200 homes.
CAT's eco-house (here we call it "Whole Home") demonstrates simple ways to make a household more sustainable, for instance by installing insulation, managing waste, reducing car use, buying local organic food, saving water and switching to a green energy tariff.
To look at the thriving gardens at CAT's Visitor Centre, it is hard to imagine that 30 years ago the site was covered almost entirely with slate waste. With hard work and a lot of compost, we have been able to develop a variety of display gardens as well as our vegetable field, which supplies our restaurant with delicious organic salad.
The sun produces a huge amount of energy. All around the Visitor Centre are examples of how we can utilise this energy directly or transform it into electricity using photovoltaics (solar cells). You can test the benefits of photovoltaic panels yourself with the Solar Pump and the solar-powered products on display. Block the sun's rays and everything grinds to a halt! There a number of interactive displays dotted around the site showing how we can generate power from the sun and how we can store the energy we harness.
CAT's pioneers set up the visitor centre more than 30 years ago on the site of a disused slate quarry. Back then there were only pieces of slate and dust on which to grow plants. Compost became a vital ingredient in creating the flourishing gardens we have today. Our compost and soil fertility experiment, which you can view on site, demonstrates just how important compost is.
Since its beginnings, the Centre for Alternative Technology has been experimenting with alternative construction methods, finding ways of limiting the impact buildings have on the surrounding natural environment.
Water-balanced Cliff Railway
The Centre's amazing water-balanced cliff railway is one of the steepest cliff railways in the world, with a gradient of 35 degrees. A pioneering project in itself and a unique feature in Europe, it is an excellent introduction to the realms of sustainable technology.
Water is one of our most precious natural resources. Although it appears that we might have a lot of it in Wales, we need to carefully manage this resource. Most of CAT's water comes from a reservoir above the Centre and run-off from the surrounding valley. The rest is collected from the roofs of our buildings - we don't have a mains source. As water flows through CAT we use it for generating energy and running the cliff railway, for watering plants, for providing habitats for wildlife, for drinking, cooking and washing and for our low-flush toilets.
Electric Vehicle Charge Point
CAT has unveiled its new Electric Vehicle (EV) public charging station for its visitors. The facility can be used for Wales Institute for Sustainable Education (WISE) users as well as for the general public. With this facility CAT is the only public electric vehicle charging station west of Birmingham and north of Cardiff.