23rd January 2020
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Hydrogen opportunities could beckon

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Could Shetland be on the cusp of a wave of hydrogen projects?

Elected members have agreed to launch a study which could lead to more use of the new, green energy produced using hydrogen.

Project manager at the council’s economic development, Maurice Henderson, outlined the “scope” for hydrogen research in the town hall this week.

He told the development committee of a plan to examine projects in other local authority areas throughout the UK, Europe and Scandinavia and explore ways of funding hydrogen opportunities.

West Side councillor, Frank Robertson, said hydrogen opportunities were already being highlighted to good effect elsewhere in the world, particularly in Iceland.

Describing hydrogen as one of the “fuels of the future”, he wondered whether the up-and-coming power source would tie in with windfarm or tidal developments. Mr Henderson said there would be a “potential” for community-sized windfarm projects to help produce hydrogen power, although he stressed he was not “pre-empting” the findings of any research.

Mr Robertson said it was imperative “this generation” appreciated the need to find alternative sources of power.

“Power and energy is going to be the single most important factor facing future generations of Shetland, as the oil runs out or becomes more expensive.”

Michael Stout, who chairs the council’s transport body ZetTrans, said he was “personally enthusiastic” about the possibility of using hydrogen more. He said the SIC, as a local authority, needed to be thinking in a “joined up fashion” about hydrogen.

Mr Stout added using alternative energy such as hydrogen was “quite mainstream already”.
SIC Councillor Michael Stout pic 1
“We are behind the times of hydrogen being cutting edge. We need to have a good understanding of where the recent developments are. This is not about committing ourselves to spending lots of money. It’s about making sure we’re not being left behind.”

He highlighted buses being used in Aberdeen which used hydrogen power – although chairman Alastair Cooper said those vehicles ran on “brown” hydrogen which, according to depute leader Billy Fox, is “just taken off the [main electricity] grid,” rather than cleaner so-called “green” hydrogen.

Mr Fox said he hoped the investigations would use a “broad-brush” approach to see how, or where, hydrogen might fit in with the isles’ needs.

Mark Burgess picked up on a point in the report which showed the council would seek input from the private sector. He wondered how officials would “extract” information from businesses without having to give money for it.

“[Unst-based] Pure presumably wouldn’t be giving information away for nothing,” he said.
Any opportunities that may be highlighted in the review will be brought to the development committee in September.

The idea of using hydrogen is not a brand new one. The Unst Partnership Pure – Promot­ing Unst Renewable Energy – has already used renewables to create hydrogen.
One of the organisation’s main achievements was the creation 10 years ago of the UK’s first ever pure hydrogen car.

Five years ago it left the isle to take its place in the National Museums of Scotland.

Much more recently head of the council’s infrastructure department, Maggie Sandison, said the authority’s carbon commitment meant hydrogen could be used to power a future council ferry fleet to help the SIC reduce its carbon footprint.

On a big-business level, the meeting heard Toyota was planning to bring hydrogen power into commercial reality over the next decade.

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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