BIG HIT: High Five for ‘Green Hydrogen’ in the Orkney Islands

BIG HIT: High Five for ‘Green Hydrogen’ in the Orkney Islands

Building Innovative Green Hydrogen systems in an Isolated Territory: a pilot for Europe (BIG HIT)

BIG HIT celebrates another milestone with the handover at All-Energy of two hydrogen tube trailers from Calvera, which increases the Orkney fleet to five hydrogen tube trailers. These new trailers will transport ‘Green Hydrogen’ in the Orkney Islands from where it is produced locally using renewable energy to where it is used. This is a significant step towards creating a Hydrogen Territory in the Orkney Islands as part of the €10.9 million EU supported BIG HIT project.

The ‘Green Hydrogen’ is being produced at the European Marine Energy Centre facility on the island of Eday, and is transported to Kirkwall using the fleet of Calvera hydrogen tube trailers carried by the inter-island ferry service. This locally produced ‘green hydrogen’ supplies the hydrogen fuel cell installed at Kirkwall Harbour and will also be used for the Orkney Islands Council fleet of five Symbio Kangoo fuel cell range extended zero emission vans. The new Calvera tube trailers can each carry up to quarter of a tonne of hydrogen gas.

Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Deployments in the Orkney Islands of Scotland

The Orkney Islands of Scotland were chosen for the development of a new European-wide hydrogen project, building on the existing Orkney Surf ‘n’ Turf initiative. This wider European project is called BIG HIT (Building Innovative Green Hydrogen systems in an Isolated Territory: a pilot for Europe). BIG HIT is a five-year project, involving 12 participants based across six EU countries, and started in May 2016. The official opening of the BIG HIT project will take place in Kirkwall on 15th May 2018, see for more details.

The Orkney Islands have over 50 MW of installed wind, wave and tidal capacity generating over 46 GWhr per year of renewable power, and has been a net exporter of electricity since 2013. Energy used to produce the hydrogen for BIG HIT is provided by the community-owned wind turbines on the islands of Shapinsay and Eday, two of the islands in the Orkney archipelago. At present the Shapinsay and Eday wind turbines are often ‘curtailed’, losing on average more than 30% of their annual output, with their electricity output limited by grid capacity restrictions in Orkney. The otherwise curtailed capacity from the locally owned Shapinsay wind turbine will be used by the BIG HIT project to split the component elements of water, by the process of electrolysis, to produce low carbon ‘green’ hydrogen and oxygen using a 1 MW PEM electrolyser.

BIG HIT builds on foundations laid by the Orkney Surf ‘n’ Turf initiative, which has established production of hydrogen on the island of Eday using wind and tidal energy. BIG HIT and Surf ‘n’ Turf are both recognised as world leading pilot and demonstration projects, which put in place a fully integrated model of hydrogen production, storage, transportation and utilisation for low carbon heat, power and transport. These projects have successfully address a number of operational and development challenges including the logistical and regulatory aspects for transport of hydrogen fuel between islands, and the orientation and familiarisation with new hydrogen building and transport technologies.

The local authority partner in BIG HIT is Orkney Islands Council, providing local input together with the Shapinsay Development Trust (SDT), Community Energy Scotland (CES), and the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC). Calvera, Giacomini, ITM Power, and Symbio are the industry partners providing equipment and technical expertise. Technical University of Denmark (DTU) is the technical partner and the Scottish Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Association (SHFCA) is dissemination partner. The Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure (MTI) represents Malta as the lead follower territory for project replication. The overall BIG HIT project coordinator is Fundación Hidrógeno Aragón (FHA, The Foundation for the Development of New Hydrogen Technologies in Aragon).

Orkney Islands Council has taken a leading role in the BIG HIT project, by purchasing 5 electric vans which have each been fitted with a hydrogen fuel cell by Symbio to provide twice the normal operational range.  These adapted Renault Kangoo vans are part of the Council’s operational fleet, and the hydrogen fuel cells give these them a wider range than their battery-powered electric counterparts. As part of demonstrating the potential scope hydrogen has for practical uses in Orkney, a small hydrogen-powered boiler will be installed at Council premises on the island of Shapinsay.

Shapinsay Development Trust works to secure the future of the resilient island community of about 300 people in Shapinsay, one of the many inhabited islands in the Orkney archipelago. Shapinsay islanders are empowered and resourced by the efforts of the Trust in whose work many of them are intimately involved as trustees, volunteers or employees.

Community Energy Scotland (CES) is a registered Scottish charity and has been at the forefront of community energy developments in Scotland. CES has been leading the Surf ‘n’ Turf project which is work closely with BIG HIT on areas such as hydrogen logistics. CES Project Manager in Kirkwall, Mark Hull, said: ‘CES’s Kirkwall team is working with local partners and companies from across Europe to scale up hydrogen as a clean fuel that helps keep the value of Orkney’s renewable energy close to home.

European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) is the first and only centre in the world to provide developers of both wave and tidal energy converters with purpose-built open-sea testing facilities, and also is host to the Surf ‘n’ Turf project funded by the Scottish Government’s Local Energy Challenge Fund. Neil Kermode, Managing Director of EMEC said: ‘By piloting the generation of hydrogen from renewable energy sources, BIG HIT is helping avoid grid shortcomings, while supporting further development of renewable energy projects in Orkney. It is breaking through the barriers to delivering renewable transport and heat, opening up new markets around the world.

Calvera specialises  in the manufacture of storage and transport systems for compressed gas, and particularly Hydrogen for high pressure. The company has provided bespoke systems for 30 years to industrial and medical gas companies and is a certified official supplier to these organizations. Calvera is composed of 2 production facilities, with a workforce of 60 people, and provides turnkey solutions including European approvals. In addition, the company maintains and refurbishes gas transport systems.

Giacomini is a leader in the field of components for heating and cooling, and has been involved for more than 10 years in the field of hydrogen as renewable energy source using an innovative condensing boiler based on a hydrogen catalytic burner.

ITM Power is an energy storage and clean fuel company, committed to clean sustainable energy solutions based on water electrolysis using Polymer-Electrolyte-Membrane (PEM) technologies. ITM Power will be providing the project’s electrolysis, the hydrogen refuelling station and will be conducting much of the safety analysis.

Symbio is the European leader in hydrogen Fuel Cell systems designed for the transportation markets. Fabio Ferrari, CEO, Symbio FCell commented: ‘BIG HIT is demonstrating the huge value of a full ‘Hydrogen Valley’ ecosystem, a comprehensive environmental-friendly value chain that provides energy independence, cogeneration of renewable heat and electricity, as well as zero emission solutions for sustainable mobility and transportation.’

Danmarks Tekniske Universitet (Technical University of Denmark, DTU) is one of Europe’s foremost technical universities with world class expertise in fuel cells, electrolysis, hydrogen storage and related technologies. Centre Manager Eva Ravn Nielsen from DTU Energy and FCH Test Center (for fuel cell and hydrogen technologies) comments: ‘It is exciting to support the demonstration of a hydrogen society in the Orkney Islands. These new technologies are today helping to show how we can use hydrogen to balance energy systems of the future with increasing amounts of intermittent renewable energy such as marine, wind, and solar.’

Scottish Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Association (SHFCA) is the sector body for the development and deployment of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in Scotland. Nigel Holmes, CEO of SHFCA said ‘The delivery of these two hydrogen tube trailers is another important step by BIG HIT. This project is developing our low carbon energy systems capabilities in Scotland, and we are delighted to be part of this Europe wide team. BIG HIT is demonstrating the important role of hydrogen and fuel cells for realising additional local benefits from renewable energy, and this great project will help many other islands and communities to achieve similar benefits.’

The Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure (MTI) promotes and develops the transport sector in Malta by means of proper regulation and by the promotion and development of related services, businesses and other interests, both locally and internationally.

The Foundation for the Development of New Hydrogen Technologies in Aragon (FHa) is a non-profit private entity founded in 2003 to carry out the organization, management and deployment of a wide range of actions with the purpose of promoting the use of the hydrogen as an energy vector. Based in Huesca, Spain, its team of experienced professionals performs R&D as well as consultancy projects, in cooperation or assisting local, national and international companies, contributing to their industrial modernization and to improve their competitiveness.

The BIG HIT project has received funding from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No. 700092. This Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, Hydrogen Europe and Hydrogen Europe research. The FCH 2 JU selected BIG HIT as the only hydrogen project of its kind to receive funding in 2016, and €5 million has been allocated to the project, which has total estimated costs of €10.9 million. For more information about BIG HIT see

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For further information about BIG Hit and interviews please contact Nigel Holmes

email:  phone: +44 7818 091466

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