The following article was published in Sustainable Ireland Summer Magazine Edition
The Charles Hurst Group, part of Lookers plc, is today making substantial savings after embarking on a series of energy and waste reduction programmes eight years ago, with more similar initiatives on the way.
Originally founded in 1911, the Charles Hurst Group has grown over the years to become Northern Ireland’s leading car dealership, and one of the country’s most successful businesses, as well as now one of the most environmentally friendly.
It has 14 different dealerships covering a total of 26 acres on the Boucher Road in Belfast alone, with other sites across the Province, including Mallusk, Lisburn, Newtowards, Coleraine and Portadown.
The Group has installed solar panels, biomass heating systems and LED lighting, as well a streamlining its waste management at its Belfast sites.
“Total energy savings to date is around £220,000 per annum, and that’s in addition to substantial savings being made through our waste management programme,” explains Group Maintenance and Energy Manager Bill Henry.
“We first considered renewables about eight years ago when I was approached by the Carbon Trust to work with their consultants on a one to one basis and also attending workshops and seminars. We first installed an energy monitoring and targeting system which allowed me to monitor and target key areas and report on progress,” adds Bill. “My first project was the redesign of our exterior lighting controls on the Boucher Road which enabled us to have display lighting during working hours, reducing to security quality after the site closes.
“The work represented an investment of £4,500 and today we are seeing savings of over £40,000 a year just on exterior lighting, so that encouraged us to look at other energy efficient and sustainable projects.”
Those projects included the installation of 50kw solar PV panels at five dealerships on the Boucher Road.
“We first looked at solar panels a few years ago, but we were not attracted by the payback period of around nine years or more. Now, of course, costs have come down as has the payback period – to five years – so we decided to re-consider and put the work out to tender.”
BHC Distributors, a leading Solar PV equipment supplier in Ireland, proved to be the most attractive, beating of some stiff competition. “We were also impressed by the fact they used German manufactured Solarwatt PV panels which have an excellent track record.”
The first solar PV systems were installed by BHC Distributors at five Looker sites in England last year, and work at the last of five Charles Hurst dealerships in Belfast has just been completed.
Charles Hurst has also invested considerably in biomass, with 10 systems installed at sites across Northern Ireland; two of them including cooling systems, the first of their kind to be installed anywhere in the UK.
The small-scale biomass units provides 70KW of cooling for only 400 watts of electrical energy. This low level of electricity is unheard of in the industry and is designed for use in large and small organisation’s and is especially effective in power intensive firms with extensive IT equipment.
Charles Hurst is also committed to upgrading to LED lighting where possible, and has already invested heavily in this area, with an installation on the Mallusk site nearing completion.
In addition, the Group has implemented a rigorous Waste Management programme, with the help of Belfast based Wastebeater.
“We realised we were not very efficient with our waste management, and although we had our own cardboard balers on site, our recycling rate was about 10%, so we knew there was significant room for improvement.
“We approached a number of local companies and were impressed by the facilities at Wastebeater who offered us an attractive package that has seen the amount of our waste being diverted from landfill increase to 95%- giving us an annual saving of £17,500+ per year,and that’s on top of our energy savings.”
Clearly, going ‘green’ has made not only sound economic sense, but has also helped the Charles Hurst Group become one of the country’s most sustainable and environmentally friendly businesses.