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Solar role for new saw mill manager

by Mark Cantrell
Vasile Damian, GMG Energy

The new manager of a Highlands saw mill won’t just have keep an eye on cutting wood – but also on the cutting edge of sustainable energy.

Vasile Damian, 30 – a joiner by trade – has joined Highlands timber products specialist GMG Energy as the sawmill manager at its plant in the Strath of Halladale, in Sutherland, Scotland.

As well as managing the six-strong team producing more than 2,000 tonnes of timber a year, Damian is also expected to manage the massive solar array installed on the roof of the production facility.

GMG recently invested £100,000 on the array’s installation to reduce the company’s dependence on expensive and polluting diesel generators for its energy-intensive activities.

In addition to timber products, the company also supplies biomass wood pellets for fuelling boilers.

Damian, who is originally from Romania, has lived in Thurso for the last 17 years. He previously worked as foreman at Caithness- and Inverness-based Norscot.

He said: “With our solar panels in place, our sawmill moving to optimum capacity, such that we will shortly see sawdust being used for brickettes, and our biomass machine becoming fully functional, we will soon see the business becoming as self-sufficient as possible. That is the ultimate goal.

“No one else in our locality is doing what we are doing, so there is a lot of opportunity for the business. Our goal is to make the Caithness region aware of us and to opt for our locally manufactured, rather than shipped-in, products. We have just launched our online shop too, so it’s certainly an exciting time to be working at GMG Energy.”

Malcolm Morrison, GMG Energy’s director, said: “At a time when we have been investing so substantially, [Vasile] is taking on a great responsibility, and we are sure he will rise to the challenge of making the company even greener and more environmentally sensitive than it already is.

“Vasile will be instrumental in driving towards our stated aim of ending fossil fuel consumption and becoming reliant on solar for 100% of our energy needs.”

As well as the solar array, GMG has invested £150,000 in state-of-the-art sawmill equipment, which takes its larger timber and processes it into posts, rail, cladding and purlins, or structural roof members.

It has also recently spent in the region of £100,000 on timber treatment equipment, which will open up new markets among construction companies and farm businesses which require treated and stress-tested products.

The company last year completed a strategic purchase of a substantial swathe of forest in the far north-east to protect future supply and increase its resilience to market shocks. The forest contains 21,000 tonnes of productive timber, the company says; roughly equivalent to 90,000 tree-sized logs.

As a major plank of its business model, the company says it is committed to replacing every log of timber that it uses, and plants 10,000 new trees a year, which grow to maturity in 35 years. It far exceeded this target in 2021, planting in the region of 20,000 trees.

Main image: Vasile Damian

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