A WORLD first has been achieved in Orkney with the creation of hydrogen from tidal energy.

The breakthrough in creating green hydrogen gas shows the potential for a clean replacement for polluting fuels, according to the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC).

The company’s director, Neil Kermode, hailed it as a “tremendous milestone” and said it could lead to the development of a hydrogen economy in Orkney.

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“One of the most promising uses of hydrogen is as a fuel for transport as it emits no carbon when it is consumed and, providing it’s generated by clean renewable energy sources, it becomes a carbon neutral fuel source,” Kermode said.

The achievement has been welcomed by Scottish minister for business, innovation and energy Paul Wheelhouse.

He said: “The Scottish Government is pleased to be supporting this innovative project which will help to partially overcome grid constraints in the Orkney Islands by enabling the storage of excess tidal power generated and using that electricity to produce hydrogen.

“The project also adds to our growing understanding of the potential role of hydrogen in Scotland’s future energy system – something we have committed to exploring in our draft Energy Strategy.”

EMEC’s investment in hydrogen production capability has been made possible by £3 million of funding from the Scottish Government, made available through Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

By harnessing the power of the tide at EMEC’s tidal energy test site at the Fall of Warness on the island of Eday, prototype tidal energy converters – Scotrenewables’ SR2000 and Tocardo’s TFS and T2 turbine – fed power into an electrolyser next to EMEC’s onshore substation.

Supplied by ITM Power, the electrolyser uses the electricity to split water into its component parts – hydrogen and oxygen.

“The electrolyser was set up to pilot the production of hydrogen fuel from tidal energy – and now we’ve done just that,” said Kermode. “This is a tremendous milestone for us and thanks must go to EMEC’s staff, the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, ITM Power and Bryan J Rendall Electrical for helping make this happen.

“Whilst the initial driver behind buying an electrolyser was to provide a storage solution to circumvent local grid constraints, the purchase has sparked off other pioneering projects around Orkney looking to use hydrogen in various means. We’re now looking towards the development of a hydrogen economy in Orkney.”

Mark Hull, Community Energy Scotland’s head of innovation, added: “As Orkney’s communities and businesses pull together to establish the foundations of a local hydrogen network, it’s fantastic to see this achievement.”

Bryan Rendall, director at BJRE Ltd, said it was a “world leading project”.

He added: “We are really looking forward to seeing more and more hydrogen infrastructure in Orkney to complement the renewable energy electrical infrastructure we have built out over the last 18 years. There are tremendous opportunities for us all here in Orkney.”