BIG HIT Project Fuels Up with ‘Green Hydrogen’ in Orkney Islands

The first refuelling of a hydrogen vehicle in the Orkney Islands has taken place using locally produced, renewable hydrogen.  The ‘Building Innovative Green Hydrogen Systems in an Isolated Territory’ (BIG HIT) project has carried out the first refuelling of the fleet of five, zero emission, Renault Kangoo vans equipped with the Symbio hydrogen range extender  at the ITM Power refuelling station in Hatston. This is a major first step towards creating a genuine hydrogen territory in the Orkney Islands.

An important pilot project for Europe, BIG HIT is a five-year project, involving 12 participants based across six EU countries, funded in May 2016 by the EU FCH JU. The Orkney Islands of Scotland were chosen for this development because of the need to store excess renewable energy and utilise the stored energy locally for transport and heat. The project therefore represents a blue print for renewable hydrogen deployment for island systems and new hydrogen territories.

The Orkney Islands have over 50 MW of installed wind, wave and tidal capacity generating over 46 GWhr per year of renewable power and has been a net exporter of electricity since 2013. Energy used to produce the hydrogen for BIG HIT is provided by the community-owned wind turbines on the islands of Shapinsay and Eday, two of the islands in the Orkney archipelago.

At present the Shapinsay and Eday wind turbines are often ‘curtailed’, losing on average more than 30% of their annual output, limited by grid capacity restrictions in Orkney. This wasted energy from the locally owned Shapinsay wind turbine will be used by the BIG HIT project to produce renewable hydrogen using a 1 MW PEM electrolyser supplied by ITM Power. Storing excess renewable energy as renewable hydrogen in this way increases the utilisation of the installed wind capacity without the need to reinforce the grid connection.

Commenting on the BIG HIT announcement, Dr Graham Cooley, CEO of ITM Power said: “The Orkney Islands are the ideal test bed for the creation of a fully-fledged hydrogen territory with hydrogen produced and used sustainably.  We are pleased to have helped develop the project and that ITM Power’s equipment is part of this important European initative.”

Fabio Ferrari, CEO of Symbio, added: ‘BIG HIT is demonstrating the huge value of a full ‘Hydrogen Valley’ ecosystem, a comprehensive environmental-friendly value chain that provides energy independence, cogeneration of renewable heat and electricity, as well as zero emission solutions for sustainable mobility and transportation.’

BIG HIT builds on foundations laid by the Orkney Surf ‘n’ Turf initiative, which has established production of hydrogen on the island of Eday using wind and tidal energy. BIG HIT and Surf ‘n’ Turf are both recognised as world leading pilot and demonstration projects, which put in place a fully integrated model of hydrogen production, storage, transportation and utilisation for low carbon heat, power and transport. These projects have successfully address a number of operational and development challenges including the logistical and regulatory aspects for transport of hydrogen fuel between islands, and the orientation and familiarisation with new hydrogen building and transport technologies.

The BIG HIT project has received funding from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No. 700092. This Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, Hydrogen Europe and Hydrogen Europe research. The FCH 2 JU selected BIG HIT as the only hydrogen project of its kind to receive funding in 2016, and €5 million has been allocated to the project, which has total estimated costs of €10.9 million.