Scotland’s Hydrogen Office opens

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A state-of-the-art demonstration and research facility powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology was officially opened today by First Minister Alex Salmond as he visited the £4.7 million facility in Methil, Fife.

The Hydrogen Office, which forms part of Fife’s flagship Energy Park, is expected to become one of Europe’s leading locations for innovation and development of renewable technology.

The facility houses a novel hydrogen production system that captures surplus energy from a wind turbine, storing it as hydrogen when the wind isn’t blowing and then using a high efficiency hydrogen fuel cell to generate electricity from this stored energy when required. The hydrogen and fuel cell system was developed by the Pure Energy Centre in Unst.

With a renewables resource unparalleled in Europe, the technology is recognised to have significant potential to further leverage Scotland’s renewable energy reserves.

Mr Salmond said:

“This is a hugely exciting development for Fife and for Scotland’s low carbon industries as we work together to forge the new green economy. The Hydrogen Office is playing a leading role in the development of a range of carbon-cutting technologies – from the provision of clean energy for electricity, heat and transport to storing renewable power from other sources such as wind, as demonstrated at the site.

“Scotland has a competitive advantage in renewable power sources and the development and deployment of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies across the energy sector can help accelerate the achievement of a truly low carbon economy – supporting skilled jobs in Scotland and helping protect the planet for generations to come.”

Over the course of a year, the turbine will not only generate sufficient electricity and hydrogen for the heating and lighting requirements of the Hydrogen Office, but is also expected to export sufficient electricity to meet the annual energy demands of the Methil Docks Business Park. Since commissioning in September, the turbine has exported over 350,000kwh to the National Grid.

This world-leading energy solution will help reduce the impact of climate change and support the Government’s ambitious renewable energy targets, which could see Scotland producing up to 10 times its own electricity requirements in a generation.

Scottish Enterprise chief executive Lena Wilson said:

“The benefits which this highly innovative, low carbon energy facility presents are tremendous. For businesses, it offers high spec, energy efficient office space to encourage the development of renewable technologies.

“Environmentally, it will help to reduce carbon footprint by promoting cost effective energy saving measures, supporting the development and adoption of cleaner and more efficient technologies. And for Scotland’s economy it will boost the development of green jobs by serving as an international demonstration centre for renewable and hydrogen energy technology, capturing a share of the £3 trillion global low carbon market.”

Jim Keiller, director of developer Alsherra Investments Ltd, added:

“The opening of the Hydrogen Office is a major focal point in the developments at Methil Dock and the Energy Park and its anticipated high profile within the renewables sector should ensure the area’s continued growth.”

The Hydrogen Office is managed by the Hydrogen Office Limited (HOL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Business Partnership Ltd.

Derek Mitchell, project manager of HOL, said: “The opening of the Hydrogen Office project by the First Minister marks the completion of the first phase of this exciting project and we can now start raising the profile of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. Scotland has the potential to produce far more renewable energy than it currently generates for all its electrical needs; yet because we can’t control when we generate energy from some renewable sources this huge potential is still limited. There is no need for such a limit and this breakthrough charts the future to realising Scotland’s full potential.”

“Storing wind energy as hydrogen; which we can do in large quantities and for long periods, means we can then use this energy for virtually anything, including in our cars, our cooking, our homes and offices. We can do this without generating any pollution or carbon dioxide and we can use this energy regardless of whether the wind is blowing.”

Renewables met over a quarter (27.4 per cent) of Scotland’s electricity needs in 2009 and this year the country is expected to exceed its national target of 31 per cent of consumption from renewables. Last September the First Minister raised the national target for 2020 from 50 per cent to 80 per cent of gross electricity consumed. Per head of population, Scotland has around ten-times the production of renewable energy compared to England. The European Commission has named Scotland as a key centre for potential renewable generation offshore in the European continent.

The Hydrogen Office is a partnership project involving Scottish Enterprise, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Alsherra Investments Ltd, Fife Council, the Scottish Government and the Energy Saving Trust.