Today’s Solutions: October 22, 2021

The Orkney Islands are a small collection of about 70 rainy landmasses in northern Scotland. Although not well known, these tiny islands have silently been mastering the creation of green hydrogen power, an energy source with zero carbon emissions that, unfortunately, isn’t always eco-friendly to produce. 

The most common strategy for hydrogen power production is the emissions-intensive fossil fuel extraction method. Most methods are very expensive, so few researchers are looking to hydrogen as a green power solution. A small fraction of hydrogen power, about two percent, comes from electrolysis, which uses leftover energy from wind or solar power generation. 

Most wind or solar farms don’t have energy to spare for hydrogen power production, but the Orkney Islands have some of the strongest winds in Europe, making them an ideal location for this method. In fact, wind farms and tidal turbines on the islands are so effective, they were generating more power than the grid could handle and had to be shut off for periods of time. Researchers turned to hydrogen as a way to capture this excess energy and use it for good. 

Researchers quickly learned how to store and move hydrogen before eventually converting it back to usable electricity. This project, called “Surf n Turf,” turns the leftover renewable energy into hydrogen which powers a local ship, a fleet of cars, and potentially the world’s first hydrogen-powered sea ferry in the near future.

Using the natural advantages of their climate, the islands are able to meet 100 percent of their electricity needs using renewable sources and the move to hydrogen power allows them to expand these sources to meet the needs of even more widespread energy users like vehicles, boats, and other transportation systems. Creating eco-friendly hydrogen power is tricky, but the Orkney Islands are demonstrating that electrolysis can effectively be scaled up to meet growing energy demands.

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