The future of the green energy industry has a brand new base - Methil.
Communities in the area are set to benefit from £4 million of Scottish Government funding, awarded to the Levenmouth Community Energy Project, which aims to develop its base, the Hydrogen Office, into the world’s foremost demonstrator of innovative applications of hydrogen derived from renewable sources.
This includes Levenmouth becoming the home of Europe’s largest fleet of hydrogen dual-fuel vehicles, and may also involve powering part of the heating of Levenmouth swimming pool by hydrogen produced at the Methil Docks base.
This would not only bring economic benefits to the area, including two new jobs within the Hydrogen Office, but is widely considered as a valuable demonstration of how hydrogen can decarbonise heating applications in Scotland and help secure future energy supplies for generations to come.
As part of the project which will kick off early next year and is expected to last five years, hydrogen will be stored at the Methil site and re-converted to electricity at times when on site wind and solar generation is low.
David Hogg, from Bright Green Energy, explained that the hydrogen gas is extracted through electrolysis which is carried out on site, allaying fears over the use of underground coal gasification.
We have been searching the world for a site to engage our technology with innovative green hydrogen applications, and have selected the Levenmouth project as the perfect locationOsamu Maekawa, Toshiba corporate senior vice president
This makes it one of the greenest energy forms as the only by-product is water.
The process of storing the hydrogen gas will help to offset the intermittency of renewable generation through turbines and solar and as a result, improve the ability to make the whole business park - including the Cannons Surgery, pharmacy, child care centre and even East Fife Football Club - completely energy self-sufficient.
David explained that the aim is to create a mini-grid within the energy park, meaning business owners will have access to cheaper electricity to power and heat their facilities.
In terms of hydrogen powered vehicles, the company intends to order the first batch within the next few weeks, meaning they will be ready to go by the time the project kicks off next year.
The Levenmouth Community Energy Project comprises lead partner, Bright Green Hydrogen Ltd, along with Fife Council, Leven Valley Development Trust; Fife College; BOC (for hydrogen transport); Green Business Fife; Community Energy Scotland; and the Scottish Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (SHFCA).
The hydrogen energy management system at the site will also be implemented by project partner, Toshiba, which will play an active role in the development of project learning. This is the first project outside Japan the technology giant has been a part of.
Osamu Maekawa, Corporate senior vice president, said: “Toshiba is convinced that hydrogen will play a key role in world energy markets in years to come. We have been searching the world for a site to engage our technology with innovative green hydrogen applications, and have selected the Levenmouth project as the perfect location.
“We look forward to working with other members of the team to achieve our joint objectives.”
George Archibald, Bright Green Hydrogen’s chief executive, praised the project team - David Hogg, Iain Todd, Barbara Whiting and Stephen Stead - for securing the funding, adding: “We are delighted that this effort has paid off, and we look forward to a year of implementing this project and ensuring its successful completion.”
Councillor Lesley Laird, Fife Council’s depute leader and executive spokesperson for economy and planning, said: “For some time, Fife Council has strived to achieve a leading innovative position in the energy sector in Scotland. This is very important for the local community and indeed the Fife region in terms of our becoming a leading sustainable energy force. This funding award could only have been achieved with support from a number of groupings within the Council and together with the project team, it is a crucial linchpin that enables us to progress these exciting developments.”
Community leaders in Levenmouth reckoned the news would be good for the area for several reasons.
The boost to Methil’s status and the hopeful injection of funds into the local economy would be most welcome, while existing employment would be preserved.
Levenmouth area committee chairman Councillor Tom Adams added hydrogen was a very clean source of energy.
Transportation of the gas would in itself keep people in work, he added, and hydrogen was already moved around freely.
The investment would enhance what the Energy Park was designed for, said Cllr Adams, while more offices could be built, which may encourage more investment.
Cllr Adams also rejected suggestions that the process would open the door further towards highly controversial methods such as underground coal gasification in the Forth, with all its environmental implications, and that this would be how the hydrogen was produced if planning permission was granted for any schemes.
“I would go on record and say it has nothing to do with that,” he added.
Alistair Suttie, chairman of the newly-reformed Leven Community Council, said any investment should be welcomed and it could only be good if the area was at the heart of the new technology.
“It will be a good boost for the economy and a boost to the area’s profile,” he added. “Putting green energy in there and committing to a centre here in Fife is great.”
It was right that there should be awareness of concerns over the methods, added Mr Suttie, but the community council had received presentations from experts and was happy with what it had heard so far.
The number of jobs created might be relatively small, but any job provision was good, along with the lift for the area’s profile, added Mr Suttie.