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Unst plan to turn wind into gas…and sell it

Blue sky thinking on Unst could see a new economic driver for the innovative isle. Photo Unst Partnership

A GROUNDBREAKING project on the UK’s most northerly isle could see wind power and other renewables used to produce commercial quantities of hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen.

The local development company Unst Partnership Ltd has been awarded £25,000 by the Scottish government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) to investigate the idea with the PURE Energy Centre next door.

The study, which has support from Shetland Islands Council, will look at how the island’s abundant wind resource can be used to create income and jobs without generating electricity, as the local grid is unable to handle any more input.

Instead of generating power, the renewables will be used to manufacture the three valuable gases using a small-scale smart management system.

The study will also look at commercial applications of these gases within the local economy.

Shetland already imports large quantities of hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen for use in the local oil, gas and aquaculture industries, and it is hoped that these could provide a ready market within the isles.

The two wind turbines that will produce the hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen. Photo Unst Partnership

And PURE Energy already uses renewables like wind and solar to produce them elsewhere in the UK and in Africa, where it runs several projects.

The year long study, due to be completed in March next year, will culminate with a community consultation and a strategic plan identifying how the technology can be used to benefit the Unst economy and be replicated in similar remote communities elsewhere.

Unst local development officer Megan Burns said: “It’s an exciting project which could offer big prospects for Unst.

“Renewable energy is taking off worldwide, so it’s interesting working on a project which will inspire other constrained communities to get involved.

“This will have direct, long term, practical benefits for Unst as it is part of a strategic plan for renewables development. I’m looking forward to seeing the results.”

Elizabeth Johnson, of The Pure Energy Centre, added: “Since its inception in 2006 the Pure Energy Centre has designed, procured and installed hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen systems around the world.

“We are very pleased to be able to use our expertise to work at a local level with the Unst Partnership in assessing the feasibility of producing these gases in Shetland using constrained renewable energy.

“Any communities with grid constraint should be taking advantage of energy storage technologies to enable renewable generation and the findings from this study can potentially to be applied to any rural area.”

General Election - 12 December 2019