First Year Field Trip to North Wales – Energy that works

Post by Dr Karyn Morrissey

On Friday the 4th of October, 5 staff and 26 excited students set off for Trawsfynydd in North Wales. Our plan was clear – learn about energy that works for us here and in the future and have a big dollop of class bonding. An early start on Saturday saw us visiting the Centre for Alternative Technology, where the students and staff were introduced to alternative and practical ways that we can lead a sustainable life. After a fun practical, students’ ideas on sustainability included buying local produce, eating food in season, retrofitting old houses with insulation and adding more renewable energy to the grid. Inspiring!

Our second stop on Saturday was a fun climb up to a wind farm. Soggy conditions underfoot didn’t stop our mission. Dr. Chris Lloyd and Dr. Gemma Catney, experienced hill walkers got us to the top in good time! Once there the students and staff had a great debate on the pros and cons of wind farms. Dr. Sam Wong as facilitator really provided insight into the important issues, guiding the students through questions he has encountered in his work on renewable energy in developing countries. Even if not everyone thought wind farms were our future answer, we all agreed that they are not noisy. And we spent 35 minutes under one!

Sunday morning started off with a fascinating student led forum – ‘Energy That Works’. The idea came from Dr. Karyn Morrissey who had participated at an Energy That Works forum for the European OpenScience Forum in Dublin in July. The students were divided into 5 groups; Renewables, Nuclear, Fossil Fuels, Energy Efficiency and Human Attitudes and Sustainability. A lively debated ensued, particularly among the nuclear and renewable groups. To be honest the staff couldn’t get a word in!

Our first trip of the day was to a decommissioned nuclear plant – Trawsfynydd nuclear power station. The students were asked about how they thought the plant impacted on the local views, particularly in relation to the wind farm we had visited the previous day. Tinho Da Cruz gave us the low down and time scale of the nuclear plant. Whilst only in operation for approximately 26 years, it will be 2088 when it is finally fully decommissioned and returned to a Greenfield site. The students were amazed at the timescale and we discussed the bottom-up planning approach of windfarms compared to the top-down planning of nuclear power stations.

Our final stop took in the largest waterwheel in Britain – resident in the national slate museum. The students decided it was big (!) whilst having a picnic outside in the autumn sun. Our final stop was the awe-inspiring electric mountain, a pump-storage hydro power station that came power the nation’s electric needs in 90 seconds. A bus tour underground allowed us to see tunnels and generators that operated one of world’s largest hydro electric plants. The students were amazed that something that generated so much power was hidden in a mountain!

On our trip back to Liverpool, not much was said, we were all too tired, and stuffed with energy related  information to say much, but the feeling of camaraderie among the students and staff was clear. Our Welsh field trip was a total success!

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