tiny fishing village on the exposed Berwickshire coastline in Scotland is playing host for the next 12 months to the cutting-edge of 21st century technology.
Today (Monday, November 21), Eyemouth took its place on the world stage as the venue for the first ever installation of a Home Energy Centre in the UK using hydrogen.
This pioneering venture has come about through the ambitions of a European consortium seeking to bring forward-looking hydrogen solutions into a residential setting.
A newly built family house, belonging to Berwickshire Housing Association (BHA), has provided an ideal ‘live’ domestic venue for the installation of a prototype hydrogen-powered fuel cell, which uses a Polymer Electrolyte Membrane and separates out hydrogen from natural gas to make heat and power.
The consortium, comprising BHA, Aberdeen-based siGEN, Baxi Group, Scottish Power and Scottish Enterprise, wants to test the capacity of the new technology to meet the energy demands of daily family life.
The fuel cell is expected to produce 100% of the heating requirements and 70% of the electricity needs of an average household.
In addition to assessing the fuel cell’s performance in a ‘live’ situation over the next year, the trial of the prototype will be closely monitored by the Carbon Trust to assess how the technology might help to reduce global carbon emissions.
Malcolm Chisholm, Minister for Communities, today officially switched on the fuel cell and formally opened the new £1.8 million, affordable housing development at Eyemouth.
He said: “Berwickshire Housing Association has come a long way in the 10 years since its tenants were the first in Scotland to transfer to a new social landlord from a local authority.
“The Scottish Executive is committed to delivering decent warm homes and Berwickshire has worked closely with Communities Scotland to develop these new homes. The technological energy advances built in to them put these Eyemouth homes at the forefront of housing energy efficiency in the UK.
“I congratulate the partnership involved in developing these technological advances with such environmental promise for the future. But for the people that live here today it means they have quality homes with high comfort levels and effective energy systems.”
The project is the latest in a long line of initiatives created by BHA in its quest for renewable energy solutions (RES) – an approach which now lies firmly at the core of the association's development work.
Philip Jones, Chief Executive of BHA, said: “This marks a milestone in BHA’s 10-year evolution, which has progressed from solar and domestic wind power, to this innovative work with our European partners to pilot a forerunner of future hydrogen solutions; an approach that could transform the way we think about generating domestic power.”
BHA’s approach seeks to benefit the company, and its tenants, by future-proofing its housing stock against diminishing reserves of fossil fuels and reducing the extent to which its tenants are exposed to rising energy costs.
Ian Stares, Commercial Business Manager for Baxi Heating UK, manufacturer of the fuel cell said: “The way energy is being delivered to the home is changing radically.
"There is an increasing demand for more environmentally friendly ways of heating and powering the home and microgeneration from units such as the Home Energy Centre represents an excellent way of meeting these demands.
“We have invested extensively in alternative heating technologies with the aim of creating a portfolio of heating products which will offer micro-CHP solutions for the UK markets. We thank Berwickshire Housing Association for their forward planning and enthusiasm in taking this project forward.”
Installation of the Home Energy Centre has been carried out and project managed by siGEN.
Dave McGrath, siGEN’s Managing Director, said: “We have welcomed the opportunity, provided by this leading-edge deployment, to enhance our experience within this rapidly progressing technology.
"This project has allowed us to establish the necessary skills and service base for domestic fuel-cell CHP systems in advance of their wider availability.
"With rising long-term energy costs becoming a serious issue, it is vital that we take an active lead in using this new technology to improve energy efficiency in the home environment.”
The Scottish Enterprise Energy Team, recognising the potential importance of hydrogen as a future energy solution, has also backed the project by contributing some of the funding to make the installation possible.
Melanie Hay, Senior Executive in SEET, said: “Scotland already possesses the industrial and academic expertise to make a meaningful contribution to this emerging market.
"This installation is designed to demonstrate that the technology can deliver at a consumer level which will help to build confidence in these new technologies and encourage other organisations to see them as viable domestic energy solutions.”
Alastair Brown, Director of Operations at BHA, emphasised the need for a partnership approach in finding solutions to demands for energy.
“This is a really exciting project in renewables, which could not have got off the ground without the vision and commitment of the consortium partners," he said.
"The unusually short lead-in time for the installation, which went from inception to completion in just eight months, reflects the strong commitment of all of the partners to the developing hydrogen economy.
“Hydrogen is regarded by many to be the fuel of the future, and this is only the beginning of the hydrogen story for BHA. We already have ambitious plans in place for the next phase in our evolution.
"This will combine the technologies of this project, along with wind or solar energy, to produce hydrogen from water, which is then stored on site and used by fuel cell technology. This will provide a solution that is wholly renewable.
"Given that around 70% of our planet’s surface is made up of water, using water as a source for producing hydrogen could offer a cornucopia of raw material for generating energy, while minimising emissions.”