The Cromarty Firth, north of Inverness, has emerged as lead candidate for ScottishPower’s biggest hydrogen complex yet, heating Highland distilleries and stripping carbon from homes’ and firms’ heat.
A new site study adopted by the generator-retailer under the Distilleries Project of the North of Scotland Hydrogen Programme has earmarked the Highlands inlet as potentially Britain’s biggest cockle warmer in green industrial power, offering export sales second only to the ‘water of life’ itself.
In April ScottishPower and two partners asked planners to approve its first electrolyser, a 20MW plant five kilometres west of Lochgoin Reservoir, south of Glasgow . It will draw power from Britain’s biggest onshore wind farm, the 0.56GWp Whitelee development.
Replicated bigger at 35MW in the Highlands, the Cromarty electrolyser could produce 14 tonnes of green hydrogen every day as soon as 2024, according to the developers. A first phase could see the electrolyser built by 2024, meeting local and distillery demands. Expansion would follow. A final investment decision will be taken before 2023.
Endorsing the Cromarty plan, distilling giants Diageo, Whyte and Mackay and Glenmorangie are on board with the Trust Port of Cromarty Firth. The port is estimated to underpin one in six of all jobs in Invergordon’s travel-to-work area.
With good rail, road and sea links, the partners foresee significant export potential for green hydrogen, widely predicted to replace oil as an industrial source of heat.
Biggest of drams
Barry Carruthers, ScottishPower’s hydrogen director, insisted: “We’re in a climate emergency and so we have to focus on zero emission technologies.
“Green hydrogen offers the long-term, sustainable, zero emission solution for industries, sectors and businesses that cannot be supported by renewable electricity alone”.
Analysts increasingly believe that hydrogen electrolysed using low-carbon electricity holds the key to decarbonising highly polluting, intractable applications like industrial and domestic heat.
Aurora Energy Research predicted in May that a thousand-fold rise in worldwide electrolyser expansion will reach 213.5GW by 2040. Over 85% of current expansion is in Europe.
Bob Buskie, Cromarty port’s chief executive said: “This is fantastic news for both (us) and for Scotland’s targets to generate 5GW of renewable and low-carbon hydrogen by 2030 – enough to power the equivalent of 1.8 million homes.
“Such a facility will be a game changer not only for industries across the Highlands and Scotland, but also for the UK and internationally as we will be able to export green hydrogen to energy markets around the globe”.