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Turkey Company Invests in Green Energy

by 5m Editor
3 February 2009, at 9:32a.m.

UK - Turkey giant, Bernard Matthews Farms, plans to invest £20 million in green energy by building nine wind turbines to power its East Anglian production plants.

Business EDP reports that Bernard Matthews Farms hopes to build five turbines at its facility at Holton in Suffolk, two turbines close to an existing windfarm at North Pickenham in mid-Norfolk and two near to Matthews' headquarters at Weston Longville, north of Norwich.

If built, the nine turbines would generate about one quarter of the electricity consumed by the Matthews' operation each year.

Matthews' interest in wind power first came to light in January 2007 when the company sought planning permission to erect test masts at the sites.

Now, after months of preparatory work, a public exhibition about the proposals for Holton will open in Suffolk on Thursday , followed by an exhibition about the North Pickenham proposals next week.

Matthews said its proposals for Weston Longville were "three to four months" behind the plans for the two other sites.

"It's all part of the business moving and looking forward," Matthews director, Matt Pullen, told Business EDP yesterday.

"Sustainability has to be central to our business strategy, so it makes absolute sense to do this. It's been looked at for quite a long time, but it takes time for things to come to fruition.

"Is this about us being the greenest company we can be? This is just the responsible thing for any company to do."

The company believes the first of its East Anglian turbines could be generating power by the summer of 2010 if planning consent is granted later this year.

Each turbine at Holton and Weston Longville would stand 100 metres tall from the base to the tip of the blades, while the turbines at North Pickenham would match the height of its neighbours, 125 metres.

The £20 million construction and installation cost will be met by a joint venture between Matthews and Climate Change Capital, a firm specialising in wind farm finance and construction.

Mr Pullen said Matthews had carried out a review of its land holdings 18 months ago and had considered a number of green energy projects.

The company now wanted to make its proposals public and gauge the opinion of people living nearby before submitting a formal planning application, Mr Pullen added.

Bill Richmond, Matthews' project manager, said the nine turbines would produce between 36 to 40 gigawatt hours of electricity a year. The company currently consumes 180 gigawatt hours of power.

Mr Richmond said, "We don't want to cause a problem to our neighbours, whether noise or other issues. We want to be sure we are designing them conservatively, and within the constraints of the sites."

Matthews' plans to build 7,000 homes at Weston Longville were rejected in November 2005 after public opposition and a planning inquiry.

Last year, the firm launched a £3 million campaign to win back consumers' trust in the wake of the bird flu outbreak at the Matthews plant at Holton in Suffolk two years ago and 'Twizzlergate' - criticism of the firm's Turkey Twizzlers by the celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, in 2005.

Sales fell by 10 per cent to £326 million in 2007 and the firm made an operating loss of £9.6 million – down from a £22 million profit in 2006 and a £40 million profit the year before Mr Oliver took up the cudgels against the brand.

Last summer's re-launch saw the union flag and the words 'Bernard Matthews Farms' displayed on all packaging in a bid to emphasise the company's roots as a British farming business.

Alongside the change in packaging, the firm removed artificial colours and flavourings from its products and switched to 100 per cent British meat - a response to concerns about meat being moved from plants in Europe during the bird flu outbreak.

Last month, the firm also revealed plans to cut 130 jobs at its head office and production facility at Weston Longville.

The firm, which has a workforce of more than 2,500, said that the job losses were a 'consequence of the challenging economic climate that has resulted in increased price sensitivity, a need to lower costs to remain competitive, and fewer people leaving the business in a very depressed labour market', according to Business EDP.

The public exhibition of the Holton plans will take place at St Mary's Hall, Halesworth on Thursday 5 February between 14:00 and 20:00. The exhibition of the North Pickenham proposals will be at Necton village hall on 12 February between 14:00 and 20:00.