When the Reading Sustainability Centre project was established it had two clear goals:
- to install hydro-electric turbines on Caversham Weir and;
- to build an eco-education centre nearby, part funded and powered by the hydro project.
A lot of progress has been made in establishing Reading Hydro, the project to install hydro electric turbines on Caversham Weir. Outline designs have been produced and planning permission sought. Work is currently underway to check that the financial model still works following changes made by the government to renewable energy feed-in tariffs. Assuming this modelling work confirms that the hydro project will generate sufficient surplus over its design lifetime to justify investment, the intention is to launch a community share offer later in the Autumn. You can keep track of Reading Hydro’s progress here.
The original goal to build an eco-education centre alongside Reading Hydro that will act as a focal point and showcase for practical sustainability solutions has had to evolve. The initial intention was that the sustainability centre would be part-funded and powered by the hydro project. However, recent changes to renewable energy feed-in tariffs have altered the economics of the hydro project, and in particular its ability to generate a surplus to support the running costs of a sustainability centre. This has pushed the idea of a physical building somewhere in to the future.
However, removing the building (albeit hopefully temporarily) doesn’t really change the overall goal of creating a space that can be a focus for learning and collaboration on Reading’s journey towards a sustainable future. Instead we are exploring other ways to deliver the aspirations of an education centre, by building partnerships, by developing projects that raise awareness and respond to pressing needs and by enhancing our ‘virtual’ presence.
Watchwords in developing all TRSC activities are that they should inspire, inform, engage and be practical. Whilst we are talking about challenges that are often global, our focus is very much on Reading. Although some challenges are, frankly, scary, as far as possible we want TRSC activities also to be fun.
We are fundamentally optimistic. Without underestimating the challenges we face in becoming more sustainable, at an individual, community, national and global level, we believe that the changes that facing up to climate change and resource depletion will require of us all are also changes that will improve the places about which we care, making them work better for people, businesses and the environment.