A Cornish firm has jointly won a £4.5 million contract to construct the first food waste-to-energy plant of its kind in Wales.
H2OK, based at Allet near Truro, together with partner EnviTec Biogas, from Germany, has begun work to build Wales' first "closed-loop" large-scale commercial anaerobic digester.
The digester will take waste from a food factory in Rogerstone, near Newport, and use it to generate electricity that will then power the factory.
The food manufacturer RF Brookes is one of the leading producers of Marks & Spencer's ready meals and is owned by Premier Foods, the company behind household names such as Hovis, Mr Kipling and Bisto.
The new facility will not only reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill, but reduce carbon emissions by around 8,500 tonnes each year. H2OK's element of the contract, worth £2.2 million, includes all of the civil engineering, the complex mechanical and electrical design and the construction work.
Established in 1995, H2OK has earned a reputation for engineering consultancy across specialist projects including sewage and industrial waste water treatment, and is among the top 25 flood risk companies in the UK.
The company's managing director Tim Cunliffe said: "This is a tremendously exciting project.
"We see biogas as a major growth sector in the UK and we plan to be a major contractor in this field. The facility will help tackle two of the most pressing environmental challenges the UK faces; landfill waste and energy use.
"It has secured work for our design engineers as well as our project management staff, who are permanently on site. This project will help bolster Cornwall's reputation for expertise in both renewable energy and associated environmental technologies."
The food waste and byproducts from the Welsh factory will be turned into methane, which will be burned to generate electricity. The excess heat produced by this process will also be returned to the factory.
It is forecast to cut energy bills at RF Brookes by up to 10 per cent each year and is part of the company's commitment to produce no landfill waste by 2012.
Mr Cunliffe said: "This is the first digester of its type in Wales and there are only a handful of factories in the entire UK with similar schemes. We are well aware of our responsibility in helping to create a showcase project, which will clearly demonstrate the benefits of generating power from biodegradable waste to the manufacturing and wider business community."
H2OK is contracted directly to InSource Energy – jointly owned by the Carbon Trust and Scottish & Southern Energy. Its project funding was supported by the Welsh Assembly Government and the Government-funded organisation WRAP Cymru.
InSource Energy anticipates that the Welsh scheme will provide a model for factories elsewhere in the UK.
Managing director John Scott said: "This project shows an attractive way forward for other food and drink manufacturers looking to implement sustainable solutions to the treatment of their biodegradable waste."
|Pictured with Jane Davidson, Welsh Assembly Minister for environment, sustainability and housing are H20K managing director Tim Cunliffe, director Simon Kearsley, Nigel Purchase, Rogerstone contracts manager, and John Nock, installations commercial manager|