World’s first tidal-powered hydrogen is generated at marine energy centre in Orkney

Tidal power devices located at the European Marine Energy Centre test site at the Fall of Warness, in the sea just west of the island of Eday, and the Eday Renewable Energy community-owned onshore wind turbine, will combine their surplus electricity (hence Surf 'n' Turf) and route it to a 500kW electrolyser, which generates hydrogen by splitting water. The hydrogen is stored as compressed gas then transported on a trailer by road and sea to Kirkwall, the capital of Orkney, where it powers a fuel cell to generate clean electricity on demand.
Tidal power devices located at the European Marine Energy Centre test site at the Fall of Warness, in the sea just west of the island of Eday, and the Eday Renewable Energy community-owned onshore wind turbine, will combine their surplus electricity (hence Surf ‘n’ Turf) and route it to a 500kW electrolyser, which generates hydrogen by splitting water. The hydrogen is stored as compressed gas then transported on a trailer by road and sea to Kirkwall, the capital of Orkney, where it powers a fuel cell to generate clean electricity on demand.

The first time that hydrogen has been created from tidal energy anywhere in the world has been announced at the European Marine Energy Centre – which produced hydrogen gas using electricity generated from tidal energy in Scotland’s Orkney isles.

By harnessing the power of the tide at the centre’s Fall of Warness tidal energy test site, prototype tidal energy converters – the Scotrenewables SR2000 and Tocardo TFS and T2 turbines – fed power into an electrolyser situated next to EMEC’s onshore substation.

Supplied by ITM Power, the electrolyser uses the electricity to split water (H2O) into its component parts – hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2). The electrolyser is housed in a standard 20 x 10-inch ISO container with hydrogen generation capacity of up to 220kg/24hours.

Dr Graham Cooley, Chief Executive, ITM Power, commented: “We’re delighted to be working with EMEC to reach the milestone of first gas production on this ground-breaking project to directly couple an electrolyser to tidal turbines.

“This is an excellent example of using hydrogen to capture and store excess renewable energy.”

ITM Power, which specialises in the manufacture of integrated hydrogen energy systems, won a competitive tender to supply a system to EMEC.

The system’s principal component, a 0.5MW ‘polymer electrolyte membrane’ electrolyser comes with integrated compression and 500kg of storage capacity.

Neil Kermode, EMEC Managing Director, said: “The electrolyser was set up to pilot the production of hydrogen fuel from tidal energy – and now we’ve done just that. This is a tremendous milestone for us and thanks must go to, among others, to ITM Power and Bryan J Rendall Electrical – as well as our staff – in helping make this happen.

“Whilst the initial driver behind buying an electrolyser was to provide a storage solution to circumvent local grid constraints, the purchase sparked other pioneering projects around Orkney looking to use hydrogen in various means. As a result, we’re now looking towards the development of a hydrogen economy in Orkney”

Another project that will be using EMEC’s electrolyser is the Surf’n’Turf project, led by Community Energy Scotland in partnership with Orkney Islands Council, EMEC, Eday Renewable Energy and ITM Power.

Hydrogen storage cylinders at European Marine Energy Centre, Orkney. PHOTO Colin Keldie
Hydrogen storage cylinders at European Marine Energy Centre, Orkney. PHOTO Colin Keldie

The Surf ‘n’ Turf project will see the electrolyser producing hydrogen using electricity from EMEC’s test site as well as power from a 900kW wind turbine owned by the local Eday community.

The hydrogen will then be transported to Kirkwall, where a fuel cell installed on the pier will convert the hydrogen back into electricity for use as auxiliary power for ferries when tied up overnight. The project is also developing a training programme with a view to green hydrogen eventually being used as a fuel source on the inter-island ferries themselves.

Kermode added: “One of the most promising uses of hydrogen is as a fuel for transport as it emits no carbon when it is consumed and, providing it’s generated by clean renewable energy sources, it becomes a carbon neutral fuel source.

“Therefore, we could see green hydrogen, over time, replace polluting fuels in our cars, vans and ferries.”

14 Sept 2017

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