Good energy: Scottish market embraces solar solutions

The Solatainer

RAIL and social housing projects are helping to drive growth for Garic in Scotland.

The welfare specialist unveiled three new environmentally-friendly products at Plantworx 2019 as demand for sustainable solutions intensifies. Garic director Neil Richardson told Project Plant the Scottish market is “enormous” for the firm, with some Scottish clients becoming early adopters of its solar solutions.

“Rail is the backbone for our growth in the area,” he said. “(And) social housing contracts – a number of our clients have actually moved north, and we have migrated with them. It’s one of our strategic locations.

“We’ve just started a job with Mears Group, who are delivering social housing in Glasgow at the moment. They got a score of 95 out of 100 on Considerate Constructors by adopting the Solatainer.”

The Solatainer is one of Garic’s recently introduced products. Addressing the need for alternative power options, the product is described as a self-sufficient, off-grid power supply. Created from a single-use 20ft ISO shipping container, the Solatainer integrates renewable power with diesel power back-up. Garic say it reduces fuel consumption and carbon emissions.

“Scotland is not famous for sun,” Neil added. “It’s a great test for us to actually put some of our products in a more demanding environment. For us, if they can pass the test in Scotland, they will certainly pass it on the south coast. It’s been really successful as a launchpad for us.”

Garic has also been involved in a number of Network Rail schemes north of the border, including installation of solar toilet blocks at a number of site access points.

“We’ve got a load of stuff further north too, including one job in the Island of Yell,” Neil said. “The wind sector is big business for us as well.”

The environmental aspect is undoubtedly becoming increasingly important for a number of clients.

“Sustainability is a hot topic,” Neil explained. “There’s a fine balance with sustainability. Is it genuine or is it a tick-box exercise? It’s possibly failed to launch in the past because you’ve had lots of good ideas but they’ve not been commercially viable, whereas technology has leaped on in the last few years, which has allowed us to bring to market hybrid products that are genuinely cost effective and good for the environment. It’s the biggest driver right now, particularly in Scotland.”

Project Plant caught up with Garic at this year’s Plantworx show in Peterborough. A quick tour of the stand highlighted the importance the company is placing on green solutions.

As well as the Solatainer, other new products on display included a welfare van featuring hybrid technology. Garic’s Hybrid Welfare Van’s facilities can be powered during the day solely from its solar panels. Things like kettles, microwaves and mobile phone charge points can all be used without having to switch the engine on. 

Garic Hybrid Welfare Van
Hybrid Welfare Van

Also showcased was the 40ft Hybrid Welfare Trailer, described as a new concept in larger welfare provision. The unit, which uses hybrid power and boasts 4G WIFI, is said to comfortably be able to host up to 15 workers at a time. 

Garic Hybrid Welfare Trailer
Hybrid Welfare Trailer

Another feature of the stand was a solar drying room, which was launched at the previous Plantworx exhibition.

“We’re really working hard to try to raise the bar from a considerate constructor’s perspective and introduce renewable energy resource wherever possible,” Neil said. “(Feedback) has been so far so good. We’ve had some very early engagement with people like DEFRA, the environment agency, who have agreed to adopt the Hybrid Welfare Van. 

“Our business was born from innovation. Because we’re seen as an innovator, we have to constantly evolve and reinvent ourselves to some extent. For us (innovating) is an absolute priority. But I also think you’ve got to try to, if not innovate, evolve. We’ve done a bit of both over the past few years.”

The incorporation of Railworx into this year’s Plantworx exhibition could scarcely have been more timely for Garic, given that rail has been the fastest growing part of the business for the past two years.

“We’ve always been involved in rail but about two years ago we reached a point where we were on the fringes of having a dedicated support team for it and we decided to set up a full division,” Neil said. “We’ve now got a Garic rail division which purely focuses on the demands of that sector. It’s so different to most environments – 24 hours, working short-term, weekend working. It’s very reactive.”

Turning his attention to trade shows generally, Neil believes they provide the perfect platform to showcase new innovations. “It’s the best opportunity to get a mass audience to your products. You can do roadshows, which we try to do, but you don’t always get the right personnel there. 

“These trade shows, including ScotPlant which we attended last year, allow you to get a fairly focused audience of people who are coming there to genuinely see what’s on offer.”