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Official opening of Surf 'n' Turf hydrogen project in Orkney Islands

The official launchof the Surf ‘n’ Turf hydrogen project took place on 27th September in Kirkwall, the Orkney Islands. 70 guests travelled from across the UK and Europe to attend the launch and view the installations at Kirkwall Pier and on the island of Eday. Surf ‘n’ Turf is a pioneering project that uses hydrogen generated from the tidal and wind energy to overcome the electricity grid limitations in Eday, and make better use of renewable energy sources.

Paul Wheelhouse MSP, the Scottish Government Minister for Business, Innovation & Energy cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony on Kirkwall Pier, marking the official launch of the Surf ‘n’ Turf hydrogen project. The Surf ‘n’ Turf opening ceremony was followed by a public seminar on ‘Orkney’s Hydrogen Future’ at the Pickaquoy Centre in the afternoon. The keynote introduction was given by Paul Wheelhouse MSP with other speakers including Orkney Islands Council (OIC), Community Energy Scotland (CES), European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), Eday Renewable Energy, Orkney Renewable Energy Forum (OREF), and the European FCH-JU funded BIG HIT project.

Scottish Government Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse, said: “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. We will continue to support innovation in suitable hydrogen initiatives and explore the practicalities of using hydrogen as a zero carbon substitute fuel for the heating of homes and businesses in Scotland and in transport. We are actively considering what role hydrogen can play in Scotland’s future energy system as part of the Scottish Energy Strategy, and projects like Surf ‘n’ Turf have a very important role to play in informing that work.”

Since 2015 more electricity is generated locally from renewable sources in the Orkney Islands than the population use, and zero-carbon power is routinely exported from the Orkney Islands to the UK National Grid. There are increasingly occasions when too much renewable energy is available, and the power cables that export this electricity reach full capacity. On these occasions the production of electricity has to be capped, wind and tidal turbines are switched off, and the renewable energy is curtailed and lost. The first hydrogen ever to be produced from tidal energy was generated on Eday just two weeks ago using the recently commissioned electrolyser at the European Marine Energy Centre.

This new Surf ‘n’ Turf system draws renewable electricity either from tidal turbines at the European Marine Energy Centre’s (EMEC’s) tidal test site on Eday, or from the onshore wind turbine run by the Eday community. The island of Eday is home to about 150 people, who collectively own a 900kW wind turbine through Eday Renewable Energy. Community-owned turbines do much to create jobs and fund local services in remote areas, but Eday's turbine is particularly vulnerable to curtailment because of its location and the way it connects to the grid.

The 0.5MW electrolyser on Eday is from SHFCA member ITM Power of Sheffield, and uses renewable electricity to produce hydrogen which is then compressed and stored in high pressure cylinders on purpose built lightweight trailers. These hydrogen trailers, manufactured in Aragon by SHFCA member Calvera, are transported by ferry from Eday to Kirkwall. At Kirkwall Pier the 75kW fuel cell from SHFCA member Proton Motor of Germany and installed by SHFCA member Arcola Energy, converts the hydrogen back to electricity for use as an auxiliary power source for the inter-island ferries when docked in the harbour.

The Surf ‘n’ Turf project has also designed the Kirkwall Pier fuel cell installation to marine standards, thus creating a unique facility for Orkney College to help train mariners in the skills and competencies needed for safe operation of future hydrogen powered ferries. Surf 'n' is developing the local energy systems to make better use renewable energy in the Orkney Islands with hydrogen, together with a training facility to establish local skills. This combination of technology, application, and skills is setting the foundations in the Orkney Islands and more widely  to encourage future hydrogen opportunities on land and at sea, and secure local employment.

James Stockan, Leader of Orkney Islands Council, said “This is all about turning a problem into an opportunity – a home-grown solution to the difficulties grid restraints cause for a community with abundant renewable energy resources. The result is a world-leading project that rightly is attracting international interest. I am confident that this will be the first of many pioneering ways our community will find to utilise hydrogen produced using Orkney’s natural resources.”

The Surf ‘n’ Turf project was led by Community Energy Scotland together with project partners EMEC, Orkney Islands Council, Eday Renewable Energy, and ITM Power. The project received £1.3m of Scottish Government funding through the Local Energy Challenge Fund, together with support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Nigel Holmes