Global Wind Day is on the 15th of June. It is a day for discovering wind, its power and the possibilities it holds to reshape our energy systems, decarbonise our economies and boost jobs and growth. We visited the Green Britain Centre in Swaffham, Norfolk, to meet with Head of the Centre, Paul Woodmin. We asked him about the centre and their vision for a greener future.
When was the Green Britain Centre established and what does it aim to achieve?
The Green Britain Centre was built and completed in 1999 as part of a millennium project. It is a cutting edge, sustainable building made from a wooden frame. When it launched, the building was the first of its kind and the project focused mainly on compost and recycling. In 2012 the centre became part of the Ecotricity group founded by the Green Britain Foundation.
“Welcome to Green Britain – our vision of the future. A place where renewable energy is the norm, wind powered and electric vehicles are a reality and pretty much all our food is local and organic.”
– Green Britain Centre
Ecotricity is the first green electricity company in the world and was founded by Dale Vince OBE. After leaving school to pursue an alternative, low impact way of life, Dale spent a decade living off the grid, generating his own power through a self-made windmill. Dale’s mission was and remains to change the way electricity is made and used in Britain. His mission has also expanded to include the three causes of 80% of all personal carbon footprints – energy, transport and food.
What is renewable energy and why is it important?
Renewable energy is energy that is collected from renewable resources, which are naturally replenished on a human timescale, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. Renewable energy is important because it is clean and will never run out. We believe that renewable energy has to be the future!
Tell us about your famous windmill…
We call it our 21st century windmill; there are only five like it in the world. What’s unique about it is that it’s open to the public and has a specially designed viewing platform that looks out over the Norfolk landscape. On a clear day you can see Ely cathedral which is over 30 miles away! The windmill is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and the energy it generates feeds into the local grid and contributes towards powering the local area.
“The windmill creates enough energy to power 1,110 houses a day, that’s around a third of Swaffham!”
What other facilities do you have at the centre?
Within our visitor centre we showcase the ‘Green Bird’, which is the fastest wind powered vehicle on the planet! It demonstrates the power of wind energy to drive cars of the future when there is no oil left to burn.
“On March 28th 2009, on the dry lake Ivanpah, the Green Bird smashed the land speed record for wind powered vehicles clocking 126.1mph.”
We also have the ‘Nemesis’ on display which is a record-breaking fully electric supercar. In 2012, the Nemesis broke the UK electric car land-speed record reaching 148 mph! The car is the result of nearly two years of hard work by a team of ex-motorsport engineers, with the brief from our founder and MD Dale Vince to “blow the socks off Jeremy Clarkson and smash the stereo type of the electric cars”. The car has an impressive top speed of 170mph and can go from 0-100mph in 8.5 seconds.
“This is all a result of wind energy as our windmills produce green energy that is delivered to the grid and then to the car!”
In our gardens we house a solar tracker which follows the suns rays all day long, converting them into electricity. The solar panel is equipped with two thin layers of silicone – as the daylight hits the top layer, the electrons ‘jump’ to the lower layer, creating a current.
We also have organic gardens that we use to grow fresh produce for our café which features a fully vegan menu. All produce is organic and locally sourced where possible so we can proudly say that our food travels from the grower directly to your plate.
How do you educate schools about sustainability?
We run a Green Britain Education Programme with a full education team that bring subjects like science and maths to life right before children’s eyes! We run tours around the grounds and exhibits. Children can also experience climbing the windmill (if they are brave enough!) Each year approximately 6,000 children come through our doors with schools visiting us from around the UK and internationally.
We’re in a really exciting time at the centre and are working to create more hands-on exhibits for schools and the public to explore. As well as exhibits, we have several conference rooms and a fully functional cinema space where we hope to run live video calls with influential figures in the field.
“Our aim is to inspire and educate children and get them talking about environmental issues and the world around them.”
To find out more about the Green Britain Centre visit their website!