Eco-power plant gets green light

An artist's impression of the site
An artist's impression of the site
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A RUBBISH-fuelled “green” power station will be commissioned after a major investment boost.

Bickershaw-based Blakeley’s Waste Management is set to build a high-tech “gasification” plant to consume 80,000 tonnes of waste that would previously have gone to landfill.

Its eight megawatt turbines will generate enough electricity to supply more than 10,000 homes, while the 18 megawatts of heat produced into the bargain may end up being piped up and then sold on to neighbouring users such as Hindley Prison.

The radical project, which has been on the drawing board for more than two years after winning planning permission, will now come about after former crane hire magnate Martin Ainscough signed an undisclosed but “major” partnership deal.

It will be at the heart of a massive upgrade of the Blakeley’s complex and bosses hope that the huge programme of works - including new transfer loading station and materials recycling facility - will make the operation “zero emissions” in the near future.

It will also create 20 new jobs to take the workforce to more than 110. But it will mean the demolition of the former historic colliery baths building.

The investment sees the two figureheads of the respective companies revive a working relationship which began nearly 30 years ago when a young apprentice by the name of Stephen Blakeley began working for Martin Ainscough as a trainee painter.

Inspired by his former boss, Mr Blakeley set up his own business with dad Dennis which has become one of the fastest-growing waste management companies in the country.

Mr Ainscough said: “I have known Dennis and Steve Blakeley over 30 years and they have built up a professional and well operated business and with our additional investment can now achieve their ambitions of providing a one stop investment can now achieve their ambitions if providing a one stop solution to provide 100 per cent diversion from landfill and energy from waste here in Wigan. They had reached a stage where they required investment in technology to take the company forward and found the mainstream lenders reluctant to invest in this economic climate.

“I am confident we can grow this business with Stephen Blakeley continuing as managing director and hopefully in the longer term our planned investment in the power station will lead to more jobs in the future.”

Mr Blakeley said that Mr Ainscough had recognised the need for investment in the firm to support local jobs but also as part of the “global importance” of efficient waste recycling and educational benefits for borough schoolchildren.

He said: “This investment will take Blakeleys Waste Management Limited to another level in the waste management and recycling industry and with Martin on board I have someone who I have known for many years and a partner who I respect and trust.

“We will create a facility that will aim to achieve zero landfill for the recycling and treatment of waste, generate electricity from renewable or normally lost resources.”

The project will involve integrated activities based around material recycling, an energy plant and an ecology centre.

Blakeleys are to invest in the latest infra-red optical separation equipment to separate waste that can be recycled, along with advanced thermal treatment technology, called gasification, which will be used to transform rubbish which would usually go for land fill, into “low carbon” electricity.

Waste that would normally go to landfill, like textiles, wood, food and other non recyclables are burned in a controlled stream of oxygen at temperatures up to 1200c to leave ash used for building materials, water and carbon monoxide. Methane, the most damaging of all greenhouses gases, is completely removed from the equation.