Going Green: Sustainable Energy at The Green Britain Centre
I’ve mentioned my volunteering placement at The Green Britain Centre a few times on here before. Uuntil a few years ago, it was called Ecotech – certainly, that’s what it was called when I went there on a school trip in Year 8. That day, they were hosting a series of space-themed activities, and I loved it.
I chose to volunteer at The Green Britain Centre while I was back home for the summer because I thought it’s a really cool place. They’re very focused on teaching the public about renewable energy in a fun and friendly way, and I ended up learning a lot while I was there. In the main centre, they have the Nemesis – an electric car, built from parts from eBay, which broke the UK speed record. There’s also the Greenbird – the fastest wind-powered land vehicle.
One of the first things you notice about the GBC is the wind turbine towering over it. At the time of its construction in 1999, it was the highest-capacity wind turbine in the UK – an Enercon E-66 with a nominal power of 1500kW. It stands at 67 metres high to the nacelle (that’s the pod that holds the blades and generator), and the blade diameter is 66 metres. That’s pretty small by modern standards – for comparison, the largest wind turbines currently in use are the Vestas V164 offshore turbines, with a nominal power of 8000kW. There are also plans for turbines of up to 10000kW off the coast of the United States.
Even though the GBC’s turbine is no longer considered big, it does still have one claim to fame. It’s the only wind turbine in the UK that members of the public can climb up, and when you reach the top, there’s a viewing platform pointing out nearby landmarks. On a clear day, you can make out Norwich on the horizon. The only way up is the stairs – 305 of them, up a spiral staircase around the central column that carries electricity down into the grid. There are a couple of rest stops on the way up, so you don’t have to do it all in one go. Every person who goes up is accompanied by a tour guide – all of the tour guides are extremely knowledgeable and very friendly!
Going up the turbine was something that I was really excited for. I’d read all of the information they’d sent me about the turbine, and was looking forward to taking my own turbine tours up. So, on my first day of volunteering, I got to go up with a tour group and a guide, to see how it’s done. It wasn’t an exceptionally windy day, but the turbine towers are designed to flex in the wind to minimise stress on the structure. Now’s probably a good time to mention that I get extremely bad motion sickness – sometimes just being on the bus for a while sets me off. You can figure the rest of that anecdote out for yourself.
Another thing I got to help with was school visits. They do a talk about the design of wind turbines – how the number of blades and angles of the blades in different conditions affect the rate at which it spins, and there’s a practical with some mini wind turbines to test out the voltage supplied by different designs. A few times, I gave the design presentation and lead the practical, which was very enjoyable for all involved.
Another project at the GBC that I wasn’t really involved is the organic garden using a combination of traditional and modern methods. They grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and a lot of it is used in the on-site all-vegetarian café or is sold in the shop.
Overall, I loved my time at the GBC and would highly recommend it if you’re ever up in Norfolk. It’s also a wonderful environment to volunteer in, for anyone seeking a placement.