The Hydrogen Story
This story has been submitted by our friends at EMEC in Orkney
Permeating throughout centuries of distinct histories, one of the most defining characteristics found across northern communities is resilience. Located at 59 degrees north, the Orkney Islands are laid bare to the elements, with strong winds and large waves regularly hitting the coastline.
That said, the archipelago has a knack for standing up in the face of 100mph gales and coming out stronger on the other side. In Orkney, this resilience can also be seen in how energy is harvested. Energy resilience has taken on many forms, from the use of peat to harnessing power from the wind and sea. Today, energy resilience is also embodied in hydrogen generation.
Often perceived as ‘remote’ or ‘rural’ due to their size and location, the Islands’ beauty is innately integrated with the capacity for innovation contained in their landscape. the Orkney Islands have produced over 100% of their electricity demand since 2013. However, the ‘Orkney electron’ (Watts, 2018), a symbol of decarbonisation, greater energy autonomy and energy stability has, in the past, been inhibited by the absence of cable capacity, underpinned by layers of bureaucracy and regulation. Hydrogen emerged out of this context as a novel, exciting opportunity. Whilst negotiations for an additional cable were underway, individuals and organisations around the Islands, such as EMEC, came together to innovate. An electrolyser was installed on the island of Eday which generated the world’s first tidal-powered 'green' hydrogen in 2017, a carbon-free fuel produced solely from renewable energy.
Over recent years, the idea of hydrogen as a low-carbon energy solution has been gaining momentum worldwide; no less in Orkney, where innovative partnerships have resulted in an array of projects and plans. Pilot demonstration projects such as BIG HIT
have sought to build a hydrogen territory on Orkney by creating additional energy infrastructure across islands for hydrogen production and storage, enabling the construction of a hydrogen refuelling station in Kirkwall which powers five council vans. Hydrogen transport innovation is not limited to the road, however; the HyDIME and HyFlyer projects are investigating the possibilities for hydrogen-powered ferries and aviation respectively.
Local Orkney businesses are engaged and looking at hydrogen opportunities, with one company even considering hydrogen to decarbonise the process of making gin! In Orkney, green hydrogen is a tangible representation of resilience, channelled through a response to challenges through optimism and outstanding innovation. An archipelago of firsts, now exploring new pathways into the development of one of the fuels of the future.