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Orkney Islands Selected For €10.9 Million EU 'BIG HIT' Project

The Orkney Islands of Scotland have been 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 starts in May 2016.

The local authority partner in BIG HIT is Orkney Islands Council, providing local input together with the Shapinsay Development Trust (SDT), Community Energy Scotland (CES), and the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC). Calvera, Giacomini, ITM Power, and Symbio FCell are the industry partners providing equipment and technical expertise. Technical University of Denmark (DTU) is the technical partner and the Scottish Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Association (SHFCA) is dissemination partner. The Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure (MTI) represents Malta as the lead follower territory for project replication. The overall BIG HIT project coordinator is Fundación Hidrógeno Aragón (FHA, The Foundation for the Development of New Hydrogen Technologies in Aragon).

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 will be 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 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 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 will see production of hydrogen on the islands of Eday and Shapinsay using wind and tidal energy. These are both world leading pilot and demonstration projects, which aim to put in place a fully integrated model of hydrogen production, storage, transportation and utilisation for low carbon heat, power and transport. These projects 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. 

Dean Boyce