The development of hydrogen fuel cells is one of the most exciting energy stories of the past decade.
Things have come a long way since early – and not always successful – attempts to use hydrogen to power air ships.
A hydrogen fuel cell is a deceptively simply device which coverts the chemical energy from hydrogen and oxygen into electrical energy which, in turn, produces an electrical current.
It’s very similar to a battery in that it has an anode and cathode. But there the difference ends because, unlike a conventional battery that’s only capable of storing power, a fuel cell can actually generate it as along as hydrogen – the fuel – is being supplied.
These are still relatively early days for hydrogen technology but there are some really inspiring things happening right here in the Highlands and Islands.
The PURE Energy Centre in Unst is perhaps the most well known whose people are rightly described as ‘pioneers in this ground-breaking technology’
Based on the most northerly Shetland Island the project has created a number of jobs for a highly-skilled workforce and successfully demonstrated that renewable hydrogen on a small scale is a niche market opportunity for businesses in remote communities.
Further to the West, the Hebridean Hydrogen Park has set up the Hydrogen Lab at Lews Castle College as a research and teaching facility.
This project established the Hebridean Hydrogen Seed (H2seed) which created a renewable hydrogen production, storage and distribution facility at Creed Enterprise Park outside Stornaway.
Rising to the challenges of high fuel costs but with a plentiful supply of renewable energy, this project presents the islands with a unique opportunity to develop a hydrogen economy.
Orkney's Surf "n" Turf
In the North, a group of businesses, community organisations, EMEC, the marine test centre and the Island council, have developed an innovative Hydrogen project using tidal and wind power to produce fuel for the local ferry fleet. In the first phase a harbour based fuel cell will provide overnight power to the inter island ferries, replacing diesel generation.