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Tidal energy being used to produce hydrogen in Orkney

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Tidal and wind energy are being used to generate hydrogen in a pilot project installed in Orkney, Scotland, called Surf ‘n’ Turf.

The project was launched earlier this week by Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish Government’s Business, Innovation and Energy Minister. He officially unveiled the newly installed hydrogen fuel cell at Kirkwall Pier. Other elements of the system, including an electrolyser, have already been installed. The facility produced the “world’s first tidal-powered hydrogen” in August, the European Marine Energy Centre says.

This project seeks to “circumvent local grid constraints by generating hydrogen from tidal and wind energy.”

Hydrogen produced will be stored and transported to Kirkwall, where the fuel cell will convert it back into electricity for use by inter-island ferries while they are berthed at the pier. Being produced from renewable electricity, this hydrogen is a clean fuel that causes no carbon emissions and has many potential uses, including to supply electricity or as a transport fuel for vehicles or ships.

“Hydrogen itself and hydrogen fuel cells both have huge potential in Scotland’s low-carbon energy system and we have already supported a number of world-leading hydrogen demonstration projects,” Wheelhouse said. “We are actively considering what role hydrogen can play in Scotland’s future energy system as part of the Scottish Energy Strategy, and project like Surf ‘n’ Turf have a very important role to play in informing that work.”

Surf ‘n’ Turf is led by charity Community Energy Scotland, working with EMEC, Orkney Islands Council, Eday Renewable Energy and ITM Power, according to a press release. The project has received £1.3 million (US$1.7 million) of Scottish Government funding through the CARES program and Local Energy Challenge Fund.

EMEC was established in 2003 to provide developers of wave and tidal energy converters with purpose-built, accredited open-sea testing facilities. EMEC has 14 grid-connected test berths and “there have been more marine energy converters deployed at EMEC than at any other single site in the world,” according to the EMEC website.

Energy strategy launched

A Sustainable Energy Strategy for Orkney was launched as part of the official opening of the Surf ‘n’ Turf project. This strategy sets out five targets for Orkney:

  • Achievement of ambitious carbon reduction targets
  • Reduction and eradication of fuel poverty in Orkney
  • Positioning Orkney as the globally recognized innovation region to develop solutions for the world’s energy systems challenges
  • Ensuring a secure energy supply during transition to a low-carbon future
  • Maximizing economic opportunity and investment in Orkney

The next step will be to develop an action plan to help the islands reach these goals.

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