From modest beginnings in Tony and Veronica Cleary’s living room, the Lanchester Group of companies, which includes Lanchester Wines and Greencroft Bottling, has grown into a much-admired business with an enviable record on sustainability. A restless pioneer of renewable energy, with a proven track record for pushing at the boundaries of green technology, the County Durham-based group is investing in a new state-of-the-art, self-powered home for its Greencroft Bottling company that Tony Cleary believes will be ‘the most sustainable such building of its kind on the planet’. As David Kermode finds out, for Cleary, sustainability is about the head, as much as the heart.
“We’re spending more than we might otherwise on a new building, investing an additional £3million in sustainable practices. But we’ll soon get that extra investment back through the energy savings, so what’s good for the planet is good for the business too,” insists Tony Cleary, head of Lanchester Group.
Tell us about the plan for ‘Greencroft Two’?
The new £20million building will be more than 22,000 square metres (around 240,000 square feet, equivalent to about four football pitches) and will more than double the potential capacity at Greencroft Bottling to around 400 million litres per year, which is equivalent to more than a quarter (28%) of all the wine sold in the UK. When complete, Greencroft Two could accommodate up to 10 bottling lines and seven ancillary lines for bag-in-box, cans, pouches, key kegs or any new types of sustainable packaging.
The really big story is the roof, which will have the UK’s first dual-function insulation PowerPanels with solar power units built into them, so they insulate and also generate. Developed by Kingspan, they have been tested on their own building in Ireland, but we are the first facility in Britain to have them installed – Kingspan has made a special production run just for us, because we have such a good reputation for sustainability.
(Watch Lanchester Group’s sustainability plans for yourself in this new corporate video that sets out its strategy)
The panels have a U-Value of 0.12 W/m2K, which is the highest standard of Kingspan’s Quadcore insulation, meaning Greencroft Two will achieve advanced levels of thermal performance. This is the first time they will be fitted on a roof and they will have 2 Megawatts of solar which will create around 1.7m kilowatt hours of electricity per year. The solar panels are efficient at cooler temperatures so County Durham’s bright and sunny, yet rather chilly, weather is perfect for our generating clean renewable power that we can use within our facility to assist us in reaching our sustainability targets.
We have even adjusted the gradient of the roof to make the most of the sun. On the North side, if we’d used the normal gradient, we would have had 400 kilowatt hours but by lowering it, we’ll get 700 kilowatt hours. We’ve been moving things as we go along, as we learn more about it. The existing wind turbines will also provide backup power and we will, at a later date, be installing batteries to store the power we generate – the challenge with renewable energy is that it’s not always used when it’s produced.
When Greencroft Two is complete, we estimate that, overall, with new solar and existing on-site wind turbines combined, we’ll generate over 7 million Kilowatt hours per year of energy, so we’ll be like a mini power station.
This all sounds exciting, but expensive. What’s the cost?
We estimate we have spent about £10m on renewables since we started in 2011, with wind turbines, solar panels and heat pump technology. This building will be around £15m to complete and we estimate we have spent around £3m more than it would otherwise have cost to build, by adding the sustainability features. Then with additional costs for infrastructure and installation, that brings us to around £20m – so far. However, here’s the deal: the amount of heat we will need will be a third of a normal building and we’ll be generating our own power, so at current electricity pricing, we should have our money back on the solar installation in four years which allows us to continue to invest in further sustainability measures.
What will this mean for the Greencroft Bottling business?
The roof should be complete by the end of June and the wall panels in place by August making the building wind and watertight, and initially available for warehouse use. And, then by Spring 2023 we hope to have the first of our new lines operational – a new €3m counter-pressure line with sparkling capabilities.
We’ll then gradually bring the remaining existing lines over from the current Greencroft Bottling – six large glass lines, one medium glass line dedicated to smaller units (187s and 20cls), two bag-in-box, one canning line and the capability of filling pouches and key kegs. Production will not stop during installation.
We’re future proofing the business and have incorporated room to grow – eventually the building could be able to accommodate up to 17 lines which will allows us to double capacity and enable Greencroft Bottling to accommodate new forms of packaging as the market moves ever closer to carbon neutral formats. The building will also have new energy efficient office space and, of course, we’ll have electric chargers and fast charges for electric vehicles of the future, using 100% of our own sustainable green electricity.
This all feels very timely with the spiralling cost of energy. Did you see the current crisis coming?
I would love to say I have a crystal ball, but the reality is that it just makes sense. I mean why would you not do it? We’re spending more than we might otherwise on a new building, but we’ll soon get that extra investment back through the energy savings, so what’s good for the planet is good for the business too.
We want to be an exemplar of good practise in industrial building technology. Most retrofit solar at the end, so they build the roof, then the panels, but we are different as we planned with solar front of mind, so it’s a new way of thinking. Storage is the big challenge and we will have to use batteries to do that. The UK can exist totally on renewables, so long as we find a way to store it. Government ministers just need to crack the storage issue because we have the natural resources already. What people forget is you lose 25 percent of your electricity just moving it around, so if you can generate locally, as we do, then you cut down on transmission losses.
The issue of so-called greenwashing is a big one now. At Lanchester Group you seem to be very keen to walk the walk rather than simply talking the talk?
The amount of greenwashing going on is scandalous, it really is and it makes me angry. We are careful what we say, of course, because we have trucks and forklifts, which is not great, but how else do you load vehicles and deliver product to customers? The government talks about saving energy, but there should be much more focus on producing renewable power and energy saving. What we’re trying to say is that if more people do what we’re doing, we won’t need nuclear power stations, fossil fuels or Russian gas. We’re a family business so if we can do it, then the big companies certainly can, because, for us, being carbon neutral is just the beginning.
- Lanchester Wines and Greencroft Bottling are partner suppliers to The Buyer.