More than 180 new jobs are on the cards for Meath this year with the development of two new 'green industries' for the county.
A proposed wood briquette production plant at Balrath, Kells, which will also include a small power station, is expected to create up to 140 jobs, 70 jobs on-site and a further 70 in transport to the facility.
In the same week that this new project was revealed, work began on Panda Waste's new €21 million plant at Beauparc, which will convert waste into high grade compost and a coal sustitute, while also producing electricity. This plant is expected to employ 40 people.
Shamrock Renewable Fuels Ltd, a joint venture between Farrelly Brothers of Carnaross and HDS Energy of Kells Business Park, is currently seeking planning permission for a renewable fuel plant where willow and other wood is converted into carbon neutral fuels, including wood briquettes and wood pellets.
The heat generated to manufacture these products would also generate sufficient electricity to run the plant while also providing 12mW of electriticy for export to the national grid.
If everything goes according to plan, the joint venture hopes to begin work on the plant in March and expects to create between 130 to 150 jobs in the construction phase.
Patrick Farrelly said they expected to employ 70 permanent staff on-site once the plant is operational, with a further 70 jobs being created in transport to the site.
He pointed out that there would also be a spin-off in the Kells area from farmers growing willow.
The construction phase is expected to last around 18 months and it should then take a further three months to commission the plant. The company is currently running a national campaign to encourage farmers to grow willow, an energy crop that can be harvested after three years - compared to 35 years for more traditional forestry.
The wood briquettes and pellets which they hope to manufacture at Balrath are carbon neutral. The process involves drying the wood and, as part of that process, they will also generate electricity.
Mr Farrelly said that, initially, the plant would use forestry thinnings (young trees harvested when thinning out young forests) as well as willow, but as time goes on, willow would make up the bulk of the wood used.
Alan Fox of HDS Energy predicted a strong export market for their wood fuels as Europe has a huge appetite for wood briquettes, mainly in Scandinavia, Germany and France.
Farrelly Brothers are agricultural contractors who also work on road and pipeline projects and who have been in business for over 35 years.
HDS Energy was set up in Celbridge 30 years ago but moved to Kells Business Park in 2003. It supplies more than 80 per cent of the large industrial steam boilers used in Irish industry and over 80 per cent of their products is exported to Europe. The company employs 50 people in Ireland and 40 in Denmark.
Meanwhile, Environment Minister John Gormley turned the sod at the site of Panda Waste's mechanical biological treatment (MBT) plant at Beauparc, Navan, on Friday.
The new facility will be in full production by the end of 2010 and will convert over 250,000 tons of black bin waste (previously destined for landfill) into coal substitute for cement production, high-grade compost for agricultural use and 1.3MW of electricity to be fed directly to Ireland's national power grid.
This is enough electricity to supply 5,000 homes, the equivalent of half the homes in Navan.
Eamon Waters, managing director of Panda, said: "Our decision to proceed with MBT technology was inspired by Minister Gormley's long-term support for the project as a significant part of Ireland's environmental movement. We are proud to unveil this next generation of cutting-edge recycling technology in Ireland."
The new facility consists of an Anaerobic Digester (AD) and Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) process. The AD plant will convert both collected organic waste (brown bin material from households) as well as organics collected from black bins, into a high-grade compost suitable for land spreading. The AD plant will extract gasses from these materials, which are responsible for greenhouse pollution in landfills, and convert them into electricity which will be fed directly back into the national electricity grid.
The RDF process recovers all the high calorific materials (plastic, paper, cardboard) from black bin household waste and converts it into a fuel capable of replacing almost the equivalent weight of coal.
Panda has already secured contracts for all of the waste that the RDF the plant will be able to process. Of the 250,000 tons of waste per annum Panda is licensed by the EPA to accept into its Meath site, over 90 per cent will be recovered.
Panda was acquired by Eamon Waters in 1990, has a turnover in the region of €50 million and employs over 200 people in three facilities, one in Meath and two in Dublin.
Panda has over 60,000 domestic customers (50,000 of whom are in Dublin) with over 3,000 commercial customers nationwide.