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Sustainable off-grid technologies – Kielder Observatory

There’s an eerie sound that you gradually become aware of when you visit Kielder Observatory – in such a remote, otherworldly place, where it’s pitch black, except for our red lighting, you could be forgiven for momentarily letting your imagination run riot. The reality is slightly more mundane – it’s the sound of our wind turbine which provides most of our power.

Kielder Observatory is one of three public access observatories in the UK sited in protected dark skies. It’s one of the best places in the world to see the stars. The “Kielder moment” is special, when visitors look up at the glittering skies and realise that they are completely connected to this vast cosmos, yet utterly unique within it.

Sustainability is built into this ethos and is integral to our Kielder location. Kielder is all about people working together for the long-term care of the environment: we have the largest Gold Tier protected dark sky in Europe, the largest man-made lake in Northern Europe and the largest man-made forest in England.

The Observatory itself was commissioned to be off grid entirely. All water is brought on site in tanks by the staff, who have developed a highly efficient way of washing up mugs after our famous hot chocolate is served. Our loos are composting loos. If you’ve visited, you’ll have heard the caution: “our loos are like black holes – anything that goes past the threshold, it’s not coming back #keepyourphonesafe.” Power is supplied by the wind turbine, some solar panels and, in extremis, a generator. Being off grid has its challenges. You have to talk nicely to the satellite dish to maintain internet connectivity. But this ruggedness, this half-wild remoteness, the landscape we sit in, and the stars that we can see: this is why Kielder is a place to reconnect with the natural world and our duty to care for it.

 Catherine Johns, CEO

Case study courtesy of North East Chamber of Commerce Climate Change document: https://www.neechamber.co.uk/uploads/files/d6wpiWCJSWWMayt3.pdf

We encourage our partners and supporters to share their examples of good practice in tackling the climate emergency, reversing ecological collapse and delivering a just transition. NEECCo does not undertake to quality assure these case studies, and inclusion of a case study on this website does not imply endorsement of the project by NEECCo or by its partners.

Some case studies will feature organisations who are involved in fossil fuel industries, or who are open to challenge on other aspects of their performance in relation to our objectives. NEECCo recognises that if we are to reach our ambitious objectives, all organisations and individuals within the north east will need to adapt their behaviour and actions. We want our case studies to encourage this process. Our commitment to achieving a just transition from a carbon-based economy to a green economy requires us to encourage positive steps wherever they are to be found. 

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