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North renewables business says £250k investment can cut carbon emissions

Some of the GMG Energy team: l-r wood processing operator David Greaves, managing director Malcolm Morrison, sawmill manager Aaron Smith, wood processing operator Liam Forbes and site manager Malcolm Nicolson.
Some of the GMG Energy team: l-r wood processing operator David Greaves, managing director Malcolm Morrison, sawmill manager Aaron Smith, wood processing operator Liam Forbes and site manager Malcolm Nicolson.

North renewables firm GMG Energy says its £250k investment in new machinery means carbon savings for the region’s timber trade.

GMG, based in Strath Halladale, between Tongue and Thurso, has spent £150,000 on a sawmill and is poised to invest another £100,000 on a treatment plant to grow its product range.

The company said its investment would allow it to build on strong growth over the past five years.

We are looking north, not south, for markets.”

Malcolm Morrison, owner, GMG Energy.

GMG also said wood from the local area will not now need to be transported 125 miles for processing.

Businesses across the north and the islands can now “markedly” reduce their carbon footprint by sourcing locally, it added.

GMG said it was also investigating the possibility of creating heat and steam from wood waste to turn a turbine, in order to self-generate the electricity it uses and to further minimise its environmental impact.

Business owner Malcolm Morrison, a former agricultural banker with Santander, said: “This investment means that we now have some of the most up-to-date timber processing equipment on the market and are well-positioned for meaningful expansion.

“Customers will be able to cut down on imported timber and timber products, road miles can be minimised and a sustainable market can be created for this area’s abundant forestry resources.

“We will continue to plant more trees than we process, meaning the business is self-sustaining, and a recent purchase of some 21,000 tonnes of local forestry means we have in-built resilience in the event of interruption of supply.”

Diversification

GMG is run from a farm at Bighouse, where Mr Morrison’s Sutherland-born mother still lives.

The property has 800 North Country Cheviot sheep, a herd of summer cattle and a number of rental and holiday accommodations.

Mr Morrison left his studies in agricultural economics at Glasgow University to return to farming before going into business and then into agri-banking, initially with Clydesdale Bank.

Local estates and farms are outlets for fence posts, gate rails, cladding and so on.”

He said: “I had a lot of clients who were exploring renewables and I saw the opportunities which were becoming available so, in 2016, I set up a standalone renewables business with six-megawatt biomass boilers to dry logs, sawdust and chips.

“The sawmill, which gives us further wood processing capability, was established just 18 months ago with very welcome support from the Forestry Commission. The business now has six full-time staff and one employee, a shepherd, on the farm.

“We are looking north, not south, for markets and have clients such as a pallet manufacturer in Orkney who supplies the fishing industry.

“Local estates and farms are outlets for fence posts, gate rails, cladding and so on.”

According to GMG, its investment in a treatment plant will open new opportunities in agribusiness and at local construction firms for treated and stress-tested timber.

GMG is also considering some limited manufacture of items such as garden furniture.

The company increased turnover to just over £2 million in the year to August 2021, up from £1.7m in 2019-20.

Mr Morrison is cautious about predictions for next year, given the spiralling costs of fuel, timber and labour.

But he said he would be happy with a period of steady post-investment consolidation.


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