WINE entrepreneur Tony Cleary is ploughing nearly £3m into the first phase of a plan to make his the greenest liquor business in the world.
He has always been keen to ensure the Lanchester Group, which this year is expected to see sales of £50m, is environmentally-friendly, with heat pumps, electric vehicles and solar panels to help cut the power bills.
And now he is investing £2.8m to put in the first two of three wind turbines at its hilltop base in Annfield Plain near Lanchester, County Durham, so the firm can generate its own electricity and become carbon positive.
Cleary expects the 50m 164ft high turbines will generate four million megawatts – more than twice the fuel needed by the business – so he can bring in money by selling it on the National Grid.
And his company, one of the biggest wine bottlers in the UK, is turning increasingly to cardboard Tetra Paks, more familiar as milk cartons, to transport its product.
“Our aim is to use sustainable Fair Trade wine and we’ll be able to fit 33,000 Tetra Paks on one truck, compared with 22,000 bottles, so for every million litres of wine you can take 65 trucks off the road,” he said.
“Nearly 9% of the European wine market is in Tetra Paks now, and these are higher-quality products – if you put something good into the pack, you will get something good out of it!
“Ultimately, our goal is to be the greenest liquor company in the world, and this should be a reality in early 2013. We are committed to ongoing investment to constantly upgrade the infrastructure, efficiencies and quality of the facility and its operation, and to improve customer service.”
To effect these changes, the company has launched the Lanchester Energy Company, run by Adam Black, who said: “I always wanted to be involved in alternative energy and I had pretty much done as much as possible on my own house, in Stocksfield.
“I had put in solar, heat pump, solar panels and a small wind turbine, and decided to start my own energy company. Then Tony and Veronica Cleary, the owners of Lanchester Wines, suggested I start a new company within the Lanchester Group.”
A graduate in agriculture and business management at Newcastle University, Adam anticipates the site’s new turbines – the first of which is due to be installed next month (January) – will generate a significant surplus power that can then be used to produce hydrogen and synthetic diesel for use in the company’s forklifts and other vehicles.
The company is growing after a £11m investment, which is expected to increase revenues by 60% to £50m in the next year after doubling them in the last six years.
As well as wine bottling firm Greencroft, the company runs a wholesale wine operation and an online gift retailer.