Orkney’s pioneering role in creating a new use for power harnessed from the wind and tides will be showcased during a series of events in September.

These events offer the chance to discover more about the ‘Surf and Turf’ project, which involves generating hydrogen fuel using wind and tidal energy – and then using the fuel to provide electricity for ferries when tied up in harbour.

Mark Hull, project manager with lead partner Community Energy Scotland, sets the scene explaining the drive behind and ambition of the project: “The wind and seas around us provide an abundance of renewable energy resources. Through concerted efforts, communities like Eday are now starting to see the benefits of local community ownership and generation, but the electricity we generate is limited and challenged by current constraints on the amount of power we can export across the local grid.

“This project will see Orkney take a small, but important, step towards rising to this challenge; with new approaches to managing the limits of its energy infrastructure.”

James Stockan, Chair of Orkney Islands Council’s Development and Infrastructure Committee, said:“This is all about finding a home-grown solution to a major difficulty our community faces.

“While we continue to lobby for extra grid capacity across the Pentland Firth, we need to find new ways within Orkney to utilise locally produced electricity.”

He added: “It will be a major milestone when auxiliary power for ferries is provided using a hydrogen fuel cell. I am confident that this will be the first of many innovative ways our community will find to utilise hydrogen produced using Orkney’s natural resources.”

The series of events begin on Friday 4 September, when the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) will host the ‘Hydrogen for Orkney Power’ session as part of the Orkney International Science Festival.

EMEC has invested in an electrolyser that will use power from tidal turbines operating at its tidal test site off Eday to produce hydrogen. The technology has been developed by ITM Power, specialists in energy storage and clean fuel, and is due to be delivered to the island early next year.

The Science Festival event will include updates from Kris Hyde of ITM Power, and EMEC’s Managing Director, Neil Kermode: “This is an exciting development for us. We will pilot hydrogen production using energy harnessed from tidal currents. Hydrogen will also be produced using power from the community wind turbine in Eday.

“The turbine’s output is currently constrained, putting a limit on the income it provides for the local community. This project will help unlock the shackles imposed by 20th century power cables – a great demonstration of how we can overcome the shortcomings of our local electricity grid.”

Later in the month the Scottish Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (SHFCA) will hold a two-day conference in Orkney. An international gathering of leading experts in the field, the event is billed as ‘Hydrogen Islands – Stepping Stones to Energy Futures’. A workshop will take place following the conference on Thursday 24 September, to engage with any interested Orcadians on the potential of hydrogen in the islands.

As part of the project, a hydrogen fuel cell will be installed on Kirkwall Pier. This will use the fuel from Eday to produce electricity, which will provide auxiliary power for Orkney Ferries vessels while tied up at the pier.

Mark Hull encourages everyone with an interest to attend these events: “The events during September provide an opportunity for people to learn about all this exciting work, find out about progress to date – and hopefully will be a reminder of Orkney’s place at the forefront of energy innovation.

“Lessons learned from Surf and Turf could well shape solutions for communities here and across Scotland that are rich in renewable energy resources, but have grid issues of their own.”