Thursday, July 19, 2012

The hydrogen economy could be starting here

Dr Graham Cooley, CEO of ITM Power, David Green, CEO of Eco-island, celebrating their win alongside a Hyundai electric fuel cell vehicle
Dr Graham Cooley, CEO of ITM Power, David Green, CEO of Eco-island, celebrating their win alongside a Hyundai electric fuel cell vehicle

The Isle of Wight's pioneering Eco-island project is to host a test bed for using renewable energy to make hydrogen fuel for cars, vans and boats.

It is one of five projects selected for an award by the Technology Strategy Board, which aim to speed-up the adoption of energy systems using hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, bringing them into everyday use.

The projects will show how these technologies can be integrated with other energy and transport components, such as renewable energy generation, refuelling infrastructure and vehicles, to develop whole systems which work together.

The five projects, selected through a competitive process, will be led by Air Products, BOC, ITM Power, Rutland Management and SSE.

Hydrogen cars and boats

The Eco-island Partnership CIC, which aims to make the Isle of Wight almost entirely self-sustaining by the end of the decade, will play an integral role in one of these, a £4.66m project to be led by the energy storage and clean fuel company ITM Power.

The project focuses on the integration of an electrolyser-based refueller with the island’s renewable energy. This allows the electrolyser refueller to act as a demand side management load, which enables low-carbon hydrogen to be produced for use as a vehicle fuel for a fleet of hydrogen vehicles including Hyundai, Microcab and River Simple.

Vehicles will include Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) cars and Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine (HICE) vans. They will refuel from a 100kg per day unit to be installed on a centrally located business park.

A smaller 15kg per day refueller, located on the south coast of the Island, will be used to fuel a Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine boat.

ITM Power will design and build the two refuellers and take a key role in the system integration.

Eco-island will assist in site surveying, planning applications, and will operate the hydrogen car club, members of which include Vestas, SSE and Southern Water.

Other partners include Toshiba, IBM, Cable and Wireless and Cheetah Marine, as well as National Physical Laboratory, Arcola Energy, and the Universities of Glamorgan and Nottingham.

Graham Smith, MD of Toyota Europe, a National Partner of Eco-island, welcomed the establishment of the hydrogen fuelling infrastructure, and said, "The roll-out of such infrastructure is critical to the future commercial launch of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles which we plan from 2015”.

Dr Graham Cooley, CEO of ITM Power, commented: “Eco-island represents a quantum leap for renewable technologies in the UK. ITM’s energy storage and clean fuel technology will be at the heart of this project that gives us an ideal opportunity to link our equipment with world leading smart grid technologies to create the integrated energy grid of the future”.

David Green, CEO of Eco-island, which he calls “the UK's leading sustainability project", said: “Eco-island is delighted to have been selected as the location for this exciting hydrogen trial, the first of its kind in the country. With the Eco Business Park as its home, and the inclusion of the car club, the refueller will mean that people living here and visiting Eco-island will get the chance to share the hydrogen experience first-hand”.

Other winners

The other four winners of the Technology Strategy Board’s ‘Fuel Cells and Hydrogen: Whole System Integration’ competition for research and development funding are:
  • The creation of the UK’s first end-to-end, integrated, green hydrogen production, distribution and retailing system, centred around a fully publicly accessible, state-of-the-art, 700-bar renewable hydrogen refuelling station network across London (Air Products plc).
  • The delivery of solar-generated hydrogen for Swindon’s existing public access hydrogen refuelling station, via an electrolyser, and its use in materials handling vehicles and light vans at Honda’s manufacturing plant (BOC Ltd).
  • The demonstration of a viable solar-hydrogen energy system, with benefits shared by multiple end users of a business park in Surrey, through the 24/7 provision of green electricity and heat (Rutland Management Ltd).
  • The demonstration of a whole renewable hydrogen system, conjunction with an Aberdeenshire wind farm powering a1MWe electrolyser that is connected to the grid, to explore the grid impacts and energy storage potential of hydrogen generation, which will in this case power a fleet of fuel cell buses (SSE plc).
Making the announcement, Business Minister Mark Prisk said that the UK has innovative businesses developing world-leading hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. "By developing a coherent capability and a vibrant industry, we’ll be in a position to capture a share of the global market, encourage international partnerships and inward investment, thus growing the economy and creating jobs," he said.

"These projects will complement the joint government/industry project UK H2 Mobility which is currently evaluating potential roll-out scenarios for hydrogen for transport in the UK," he added.

Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker, whose department helped to select and is funding the projects, said: “Hydrogen and fuel-cell technologies are at the cutting edge of new low carbon energy solutions. We need to see how these technologies can be integrated with other energy and transport products, and these exciting government-supported projects will do just that.”

The Technology Strategy Board and DECC will provide grant funding of £9 million. The total value of the projects, including contributions from the industrial partners, is in excess of £19 million.

DECC is supporting innovation in low carbon technologies with a capital budget of over £200 million for low-carbon technologies over the current Spending Review period, and has already given funding to offshore wind manufacturing at port sites; offshore wind components; marine energy array demonstration; buildings energy efficiency projects; carbon capture and storage; bio-energy innovation and energy entrepreneurs.

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