Hebridean Hydrogen Park

Surrounded by some of the best natural resources in Europe, the Outer Hebrides is at the centre of a bold and exciting project to develop a new kind of fuel economy.

Faced with some of the highest fuel costs anywhere in the UK but with rich natural resources, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has seized on an opportunity to pioneer an ambitious community development strategy involving a greener, cleaner type of fuel – hydrogen.

Dr Ruairi MacIver, the council’s renewable energy project manager says: “Harnessing the Outer Hebrides’ rich renewable and sustainable energy resources for local hydrogen generation and use, rather than electrical transmission, offers a commercially viable alternative to oil-derived fuels.

“The economics of fuel supply in the Outer Hebrides provide an opportunity to demonstrate pre-commercial hydrogen technologies on a near-commercial basis.”

The ‘Creating Communities of the Future’ strategy involves the establishment of a Hebridean Hydrogen Park. This is being developed in three stages.

The first phase saw the setting up of the Hydrogen Lab at Lews Castle College in 2005. The lab is already seeing some encouraging results. Early in 2008 the first of six micro wind turbines to generate electricity which will then be converted into hydrogen was erected.

Robin Goodhand, who oversees the Lab’s hydrogen project, says: “This first turbine is powering a single heater at the moment but shortly we’ll be linking it with some power electronics to characterise its output.

“This will give us valuable data for optimising the design of the protection systems and programming the inverters. And once we’ve done that, then we can make hydrogen!”

Lews Castle College’s Hydrogen Lab currently imports its hydrogen from mainland Scotland but Robin Goodhand and his team will be establishing a renewable hydrogen production facility during 2008. The facility will enhance grid stability by generating ‘green’ hydrogen with off-grid intermittent generation from the college’s hybrid renewable energy systems.

Mr Goodhand says: “A key aim of this project is to reduce the cost of running the hydrogen lab by producing our own hydrogen locally.”

The Hydrogen Park’s second phase, the Hebridean Hydrogen Seed (H2seed) will create a renewable hydrogen production, storage and distribution facility at Creed Enterprise Park just outside Stornaway. The first of its hydrogen demonstration projects are due to be rolled out later this year.

Dr MacIver explains: “Renewable hydrogen will be generated by water electrolysis using the excess capacity of the bio-gas generator that supplies the Comhairle’s Integrated Waste Management Facility with electricity – the biogas is produced by anaerobic digestion of the organic matter in municipal waste. The facility will be a world first.”

H2seed will use the hydrogen to run a small number of council vehicles and provide a ready supply for the Hydrogen Lab. Meanwhile, preparation for phase 3 of the Hebridean Hydrogen Park, to be known as H2growth, is already underway. This stage will demonstrate hydrogen applications in a wider range of domestic and industrial contexts including transport and heat and power generation.

"We also want to explore local and export hydrogen markets and encourage the long-term development of the local hydrogen economy,” says Dr MacIver.

For all the latest developments, visit www.hydrogenhebrides.com


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