M&Co makes £20m move into green energy with turbine plan

Ken Hunter said farmers would receive a rental payment for the use of their land for M&Co turbines
Ken Hunter said farmers would receive a rental payment for the use of their land for M&Co turbines
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CLOTHING retailer M&Co is moving into the renewable energy market after yesterday unveiling plans to erect £20 million-worth of wind turbines on farms in Scotland.

Mackays Stores Group, M&Co’s Inchinnan-based parent company, will use the electricity generated by the turbines to power its network of 300 UK stores.

The company already buys renewable energy but now wants to generate its own power to insulate itself against rising electricity prices.

Mackays changed its shops’ names to M&Co in 2006. The group was founded as a pawnbrokers in 1834 and switched into selling clothes in 1961 when brothers Len and Iain McGeoch took over full control of their family business.

Neil McGeoch, Iain’s son and managing director of the new MEG Renewables subsidiary, hopes his background as a beef farmer in Ayrshire will help him to win over landowners to host wind turbines.

The group wants to erect between one and three turbines on each site to produce between 500 kilowatts and five megawatts (MW).

It is estimated that the firm will need about 20MW of power to supply all of its M&Co clothes shops, with the sites expected to be built over the next five years.

Duncan Black, energy manager at M&Co, said: “As well as providing a secure source of renewable electricity, in line with our desire to minimise our carbon footprint, owning our own wind turbines provides a valuable hedge against any future upward movements in electricity prices.”

While some wind farm developers will site turbines on farms and then sell the investment on to another company, MEG said it would commit to a 25-year contract with farmers.

Ken Hunter, business development manager at MEG Renewables, said: “Our experience is that farmers and landowners like the idea of working with a name they know and a business that has been around for a long time.

“The fact that MEG Renewables will retain full responsibility for the life of the turbines is a further plus point.”

Hunter said MEG would supply the money to buy, erect and connect the turbines, with farmers receiving a rental payment for use of their land.

In September, Mackays Stores Group posted an 11 per cent rise in pre-tax profits for the year to 28 February to £11.5 million on the back of a 6 per cent increase in turnover to £186.9m.

While other retail groups have committed themselves to using energy from renewable sources – including Marks & Spencer – M&Co believes that it is the first high street chain to produce plans to own all of its own wind turbines.

Other Scottish companies have also gone down the road of owning their own wind turbines. Aberdeenshire-based ice-cream producer Mackie’s installed its first turbine in 2005, adding a further two in 2007.

Mackie’s said the three machines together produce about 2.5MW of power, with 30 per cent being used on its farm and the rest sold to the national electricity grid via power company Good Energy.