ScottishPower has narrowed down the locations it's considering for its 35MW electrolyser site, with the Cromarty Firth identified as “ideal”.
As part of the North of Scotland Hydrogen Programme Distilleries Project study, a number of sites around the Firth were identified that could home what is set to be the UK’s largest green hydrogen facility according to the developer.
The facility will produce 14 tonnes of green hydrogen per day when completed in 2024. The Cromarty Firth has been particularly highlighted given the large regional concentration of renewable energy potential, including offshore wind development sites.
Additionally, the area has a proven track record of renewable development, with an experienced local supply chain and strong links to industry, transport and heat networks. As such, a green hydrogen hub in the Cromarty Firth could supply distilleries in the region for heating and the processes in making whiskey.
The study suggests a phased development of the facility, with detailed engineering, community engagement and commercial development up next in the process. These steps will prepare the project for a final investment decision by 2023.
The second phase would see an expansion of green hydrogen to meet growing energy demands nationally and internationally. The technology forms part of the Scottish government’s decarbonisation strategy, with the country targeting plans to become a leading hydrogen economy by 2030.
“This is an industry leading project, harnessing the region’s rich, renewable energy to help support industries and sectors near the Port of Cromarty Firth on their own decarbonisation journeys,” said Barry Carruthers, hydrogen director at ScottishPower.
“The North of Scotland Hydrogen Programme will see the Highlands become home to one of the UK’s largest green hydrogen facilities and we’re looking forward to moving ahead with our partners, the Scottish government, Highland Council and all local stakeholders as we move into the next stages of the project.”
It is backed by ScottishPower, Pale Blue Dot (A Storegga Group Company), Port of Cromarty Firth and drinks companies Glenmorangie, Whyte & Mackay and Diageo.
The choice of the Cromarty Firth for the site follows ScottishPower submitting a planning application for a 20MW electrolyser just 5km west of Lochgoin Reservoir in April. This site will utilise power from the country’s largest onshore wind farm, Whitelee, as well as 40MW of solar and 50MW of battery storage that will be developed as part of the project.
Across the UK and beyond, green hydrogen is increasingly being looked to as a path to decarbonise difficult industries. Research from Aurora Energy in May found that electrolyser capacity is set to increase from 0.2GW worldwide today to 213.5GW by 2040, a thousand-fold increase.
In May, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced £60 million to support the development of low carbon hydrogen. A number of projects around the UK are moving forwards, including the South Wales Industrial Cluster, for which Lightsource BP is developing solar-powered green hydrogen, and a project located on the island of Eday, at the European Marine Energy Centre's tidal energy test site that is set to combine tidal power and vanadium flow batteries to produce continuous green hydrogen.
Further research from the Aurora Group in July suggested that green hydrogen costs in Europe could fall to between €2 (£1.72) and €2.5/kg, supporting additional development, but using grid electricity instead of specific renewable developments – such as within ScottishPower’s developments – could drive up costs.