Opening TimesBy Appointment :-
Mon: 9am – 5pm
Tues: 9am – 5pm
Weds: 9am – 5pm
Thurs: 9am – 5pm
Fri: 9am – 5pm
How Does a Civil Engineer Get into Renewable Energy?
A chance meeting, where a conversation between a civil engineer and an agricultural landowner led to discussions with a renewable energy developer looking to procure a site.
The landowner had been approached by an anaerobic digestion developer (AD is the biological process of converting organic material into ‘green gas’). He was looking to lease land from the landowner to build an AD plant.
AD Biomethane Plant Development
As well as leasing his land for AD plant development, the landowner would be asked to grow and/or source the crop that would then be bought back by the developer and used in the AD process.
The AD plant would then convert the organic material into biomethane and feed the renewable energy back into the national gas grid to help fuel homes and businesses.
The deal was struck between the landowner and the AD plant developer. Holmework (Yorks) Ltd was appointed Principal Contractor for the civils works package to prepare the site for the sustainable energy infrastructure.
Through their Honley business Holmework (Yorks) Ltd, Richard and his son Jack Sommerville, found themselves in a niche market, specialising in AD plant construction works and project management.
Richard has 40 years of experience in management roles within the UK construction industry and Jack is an experienced construction and site operations manager.
The successful partnership created a natural move for Richard and Jack as, by demand, they transitioned from mainstream civil engineering into the renewable energy sector.
From Scotland to Cornwall, their construction and civil engineering work for gas and solar farms, and sustainable waste treatment plants, takes them all over the UK.
AD Plant Design and Construction
Very often there will be an initial remediation and/or enabling package of works carried out by Holmework before then being formally appointed as Principal Contractor to design and construct the civils and earthworks requirements for each AD plant. These civils requirements include bulk excavation and earthworks, services infrastructure, asphalt roads and aprons, surface and black water drainage systems, silage clamp installations and casting of the concrete plinths that the AD plant technology is mounted on.
“The industry is driven by the government’s Green Gas Support Scheme (GGSS) which is an environmental scheme that provides financial incentives for new AD biomethane plants to increase the proportion of green gas into the national grid,” said Richard. “So once these government incentives are attractive enough, that’s when we tend to see the rise in demand to construct new plants.”
Holmework’s services include the management of renewable energy construction projects and sustainable civil engineering. They are the Principal Contractors when overseeing the new build or extension of an existing AD plant.
Most of the companies that provide the technology for the AD processes are from Europe, including the Netherlands and Germany, as well as installation teams from Eastern Europe. Part of Holmework’s role as Principal Contractor is to manage the migrant workers and ensure adherence to UK health and safety laws, regulatory compliance and permits are met.
“We provide the civils and groundworks and then manage the site logistics for the technical providers,” said Richard.
What is Anaerobic Digestion Technology?
Anaerobic digestion is a biological process that breaks down organic matter and converts it into biomethane. It is a natural process that occurs in the digestive system of animals.
“In simple terms, we are building a mechanical version of a cow’s stomach,” said Richard. “The crop – often rye or maize – goes in at one end, ferments in the middle, and produces gas at the other end.
“The digester tank is where everything ferments inside and biomethane is then produced, the dome of the large digester tanks inflates like a balloon as the gas is given off.
“The gas then goes through a series of on-site processes that basically ‘cleans’ the gas into useable Biomethane which can then be injected straight into, or transported by tankers for injection, into the national grid.”
Rural AD plants use crops and/or animal (often chicken) faeces, whereas urban AD plants convert both farm and food waste. Richard has seen oil tankers filled with unsold orange juice from supermarkets or lorry loads of chocolate gateaux being used in the plants.
Eco-Friendly Infrastructure Development
“It’s a niche industry we have found ourselves in,” said Richard. “As you would when you build a school or a house, the logistics of putting the planning in and managing the contracts of an AD plant are the same process. Farmers understand their land and how to grow their crops. We understand the construction process. We have found ourselves in a unique situation and have adopted sustainable practices to help foster a greener, healthier and more sustainable future.”
Have you seen a big green or sky blue balloon-like dome on a farm? As leaders in the construction and civil engineering project management for green gas production, it could well be one of Holmework’s renewable energy projects.
Click here to learn about other businesses in Honley and explore village life