News and Updates

BIG HIT High Five for ‘Green Hydrogen’ in the Orkney Islands

BIG HIT celebrates another milestone with the handover at All-Energy of two hydrogen tube trailers from Calvera, which increases the Orkney fleet to five hydrogen tube trailers. These new trailers will transport ‘Green Hydrogen’ in the Orkney Islands from where it is produced locally using renewable energy to where it is used. This is a significant step towards creating a Hydrogen Territory in the Orkney Islands as part of the €10.9 million EU supported BIG HIT project.

The ‘Green Hydrogen’ is being produced at the European Marine Energy Centre facility on the island of Eday, and is transported to Kirkwall using the fleet of Calvera hydrogen tube trailers carried by the inter-island ferry service. This locally produced ‘green hydrogen’ supplies the hydrogen fuel cell installed at Kirkwall Harbour and will also be used for the Orkney Islands Council fleet of five Symbio Kangoo fuel cell range extended zero emission vans. The new Calvera tube trailers can each carry up to quarter of a tonne of hydrogen gas.

The Orkney Islands of Scotland were chosen for the development of a new European-wide hydrogen project, building on the existing Orkney Surf ‘n’ Turf initiative. This wider European project is called BIG HIT (Building Innovative Green Hydrogen systems in an Isolated Territory: a pilot for Europe). BIG HIT is a five-year project, involving 12 participants based across six EU countries, and started in May 2016. The official opening of the BIG HIT project will take place in Kirkwall on 15th May 2018, see for more details.

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, with their electricity output limited by grid capacity restrictions in Orkney. The otherwise curtailed capacity from the locally owned Shapinsay wind turbine will be used by the BIG HIT project to split the component elements of water, by the process of electrolysis, to produce low carbon ‘green’ hydrogen and oxygen using a 1 MW PEM electrolyser.

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.

Nigel Holmes