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EcoIslands shown the Wight way to go green, Part 2: Hydrogen energy

Steve Barrett

EcoIsland – the UK's largest single sustainability project – will see hydrogen vehicles on the roads and in the water around the Isle of Wight, as well as providing a demonstration of smart grid technologies in tandem with the use of hydrogen for both vehicle refuelling and energy storage.

In Part 1 we saw that the EcoIsland initiative should see the Isle of Wight (IOW) become a net energy exporter by 2020, utilising a smart grid infrastructure developed with global technology partners. Here we see the role that hydrogen energy will play in this wide-ranging project.

Hydrogen energy

EcoIsland will also use renewably produced hydrogen for transportation fuelling and as energy storage. In the summer the Technology Strategy Board, which acts as the UK government’s innovation agency, awarded a grant to fund a £4.66 million ($7.5 million) project that will build and integrate a hydrogen energy storage and vehicle refuelling system into the power system in the Isle of Wight.

The project will be led by Sheffield-based ITM Power in collaboration with SSE, Toshiba, IBM, Cable&Wireless Worldwide, the National Physical Laboratory, Cheetah Marine, Arcola Energy, the EcoIsland CIC, and the Universities of Glamorgan and Nottingham.

ITM Power will receive £1.3 million ($2.1 million) of grant funding directly, with a further £1 million going to the collaboration partners who are integrating their equipment with ITM Power’s refuelling technology.

The project focuses on the integration of an electrolyser-based hydrogen refueller with the Island’s renewable energy sources. This allows the electrolyser to act as a Demand-Side Management (DSM) mechanism to manage the variable load of the renewables, storing excess energy as zero-carbon hydrogen fuel for vehicular use.

There is also the potential in the future to sell excess hydrogen to the natural gas network, which can take up to 15% hydrogen, decarbonising the gas supply without any changes required to existing appliances. ITM Power is participating in a separate feasibility study, called GridGas, to look at injecting hydrogen generated using electrolysis fed by excess renewables into the UK’s gas networks.

The hydrogen project will design, build, install, and operate two grid-connected hydrogen refuelling platforms in the Isle of Wight, with both offering dual 350 and 700 bar refuelling capability.

A 15 kg/day refueller will be used in a marine application located on the south coast of the Island, and a larger 100–125 kg/day unit will be installed at a centrally located business park for the operation of a fleet of hydrogen vehicles, including vehicles from Hyundai, Microcab, and Riversimple.

The vehicles showcased will include fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) cars, hydrogen internal combustion engine (HICE) vans, and a HICE boat.

The system includes integrated power control systems to allow the electrolysers to operate as a DSM load under a variable load factor, and a highly accurate metering and monitoring system for hydrogen delivery. The project participants have the following roles:

  • ITM Power will design and build two hydrogen refuellers, and take a key role in the system integration.
  • SSE is providing the grid connection to utilise the Island’s renewable energy sources, and will use the refueller and vehicles in the final year of demonstration.
  • Toshiba will ensure compatibility of the hydrogen system with its Energy Management System and the Distribution Network Operator (DNO) networks, which will enable it to actively participate in the energy balancing of the distribution network in future.
  • IBM will develop a user interface to allow smart card payment facilities for the refuellers, in order to meter and monitor the provision of hydrogen.
  • Cable&Wireless Worldwide will provide communications to allow remote monitoring of both the refuellers and the vehicles, and allow data collection and data ‘cloud’ integration.
  • The National Physical Laboratory will develop hydrogen purity tests to ensure compliance with FCEV requirements (ISO14687-2).
  • The EcoIsland CIC will assist with site surveying, planning applications, and will operate the hydrogen car club, which counts wind energy company Vestas and Southern Water among its members. With Arcola Energy the CIC will organise and run an FCEV road show with ride & drive opportunities.
  • Arcola Energy will develop an educational and dissemination package, and provide public and commercial engagement activities.
  • Cheetah Marine will build a hydrogen powered catamaran in conjunction with ITM Power, and operate it in validation trials.
  • The Universities of Nottingham and Glamorgan will evaluate the performance and operating characteristics of the hydrogen refuelling stations, and use their own ITM Power electrolyser-fed refuelling stations to devise refuelling strategies to optimise the efficiency of operation.

Project management and reporting will include a high-level steering group, meeting twice a year, that is made up of consortium executives, key industry and other stakeholders, and representatives from automotive OEMs including Toyota Europe and Hyundai.

‘We are delighted that the Technology Strategy Board is backing this key element to our plans,’ says David Green.

‘We will be the model for the future smart grid, and the Isle of Wight will become a global centre for energy technology,’ continues Green. ‘The team we have pulled together for this project has the potential to lead the world in smart grid systems.’

Hydrogen mobility

The Isle of Wight hosted one of the initial hydrogen vehicle and fuelling demonstrations in ITM Power’s Hydrogen On-Site Trials (HOST) programme, with Vestas Wind Systems. The Danish wind turbine manufacturer has a research and development centre in Newport, which under HOST operated two Ford Transit vans with hydrogen internal combustion engines converted by Revolve Technologies.

There also a small number of charging points for battery electric vehicles.

As well as the hydrogen road vehicles, ITM Power is also providing refuelling for a hydrogen powered catamaran in a project with boat builder Cheetah Marine in Ventnor.

ITM and Cheetah will work to optimise existing gasoline outboard motors to run on hydrogen, reducing both emissions and fuel costs. The resulting vessel will be taken through the approvals process, to be marketed as a product alongside ITM Power’s refuelling equipment.

‘Hydrogen is a realistic fuel substitute for marine applications, and will play a vital role in reducing emissions while helping to protect the sensitive inshore environment,’ says Sean Strevens, Managing Director of Cheetah Marine.

Island energy systems are one of the key entry markets for onsite hydrogen fuel production, since islands have high fuel prices and difficult fuel logistics.

Most island systems utilise significant numbers of marine vehicles, which represent a sizable global market for outboard engines. Emissions are an important focus for the industry, owing to restrictive use in the sensitive environment near the shore.



This article was originally published in the October 2012 issue of the Fuel Cells Bulletin – try the sample Digital Edition (which contains the original feature article on ITM Power's hydrogen refuelling technology, and its involvement in the EcoIsland initiative).



Also see:

♦  Isle of Wight aims for net energy exports by 2020 in EcoIsland sustainability project

♦  UK projects accelerate ‘green’ hydrogen energy

♦  The future of fuel: The future of hydrogen (Part 1) (feature article)

♦  The future of fuel: The future of hydrogen (Part 2) (feature article)

♦  Could Isle of Wight be tidal centre? (feature article)


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