One of Reading Sustainability Centre’s original goals was to build an eco-education centre close to the hydro project that people in Reading could visit to learn about a wide range of green, ecological, environmental and sustainable themes and that would act as a showcase for sustainable best practice in building design and management.
The Centre would fulfil a range of functions, including:
- being a space that people visit to learn about sustainability, through live demonstrations, exhibitions, displays and hands-on examples
- acting as an information hub and meeting place for community groups and businesses keen to address their environmental impact
- providing enterprise and innovation space for local start-up businesses in the sustainability and social enterprise field
- providing some office and meeting space for local green organisations.
As an exemplar sustainable building, the aim will be to power the Centre with heat and electricity from predominantly renewable sources. One way to achieve this is for the Centre to draw its energy directly from the hydro project. For this to happen the Centre would need to be close to the Weir – to minimise loss of energy due to transfer through cables; any surplus energy would be exported to the national grid or possibly sold to local consumers. A number of potential sites near to the Weir have been investigated. In this case the hydro project would not only provide energy but also be one of the resources the Centre could draw upon for learning.
Although changes to the guaranteed feed-in tariffs for renewable energy projects have tightened the margins involved in developing hydro project and reduced the likely surplus available to help fund the building of the eco-education centre, we are continuing to work with partners to develop a range of activities that an eco-education centre could ultimately support, and vice versa.
Looking ahead to the future, this is an imagined letter from one of the Centre’s first visitors.