Orkney Islands Council has welcomed the official launch of the BIG HIT hydrogen project.
The Council is a key partner in the project, which was launched during events at Kirkwall Harbour and the Pickaquoy Centre today.
BIG HIT (Building Innovative Green Hydrogen Systems in an Isolated Territory) involves 12 organisations based in six European countries and is funded by the EU.
Orkney is at the heart of the project, which aims to demonstrate how hydrogen produced locally using renewable energy can be used sustainably in ways which benefit islands and other remote communities.
The Council has taken a leading role by purchasing five electric vans, which have each been fitted with a BIG HIT-funded hydrogen fuel cell, giving them twice their normal operational range.
The vans were on show at today’s events and have replaced older diesel vehicles in the Council’s operational fleet.
OIC Leader James Stockan said: “These are the first vehicles to have a ‘fill-up’ of Orkney-produced hydrogen, a significant development which shows clearly that BIG HIT is up and running.
“The Council is ambitious about reducing its carbon footprint – and eventually becoming carbon neutral - and these zero-emission vans are an early win in achieving this.
“The hydrogen that powers them is produced using locally generated renewable energy. This will benefit the community wind turbines in Eday and Shapinsay. The electricity they produce is often ‘curtailed’ by grid capacity constraints. By switching output to hydrogen production when this happens, the turbines will be generating a greater income for their communities, as well as a versatile and sustainable fuel.
“I’m delighted that our islands have this opportunity to serve as the ideal test bed for the BIG HIT initiative which is very much about showcasing what we can achieve in Orkney to the rest of the world.”
As part of demonstrating the potential scope hydrogen has for practical uses in Orkney, a small hydrogen-powered boiler is also being installed at Council premises in Shapinsay.