The UK’s first commercial scale solar-powered hydrogen production and refuelling facility has been opened in Swindon.
It was developed by a consortium of businesses including BOC and Honda, which has its UK manufacturing site on the outskirts of Swindon.
The consortium claimed the development had achieved a number of significant ‘firsts’. They said the facility would be the first in the UK to produce commercial volumes of ‘green’ hydrogen from solar power, by electrolysis, at the point of use.
In addition, the station will employ BOC’s filling technology to serve a range of uses including the world’s first hybrid vans running on sustainable biodiesel and hydrogen, the UK’s first hydrogen powered fork-lift trucks - and even a hydrogen-powered education centre on the site.
The new facility has been integrated into the existing hydrogen refuelling station, which opened in September 2011. It is hoped that this facility will be a benchmark for other refuelling stations to follow as well as reinforcing the UK’s attractiveness as a location for major car manufacturers to roll out fuel cell vehicles and encourage the growth of a national refuelling infrastructure.
The Consortium, which comprises BOC, Honda, Commercial Group, Swindon Borough Council, Fuel Cell Systems, Briggs Equipment and Revolve, worked together to secure funding from the Technology Strategy Board (now the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK) and to design and commission the facility, highlighting the UK’s leadership in environmental technologies using hydrogen, a low carbon energy source that offers energy security, employment opportunities and economic growth.
Jason Smith, Honda director of UK manufacturing, said: “This project is absolutely aligned with Honda Motor’s Environmental Vision: striving to realise the joy of freedom of mobility and a sustainable society where people can enjoy life. Through this project we, as a consortium, have made great advances in proving the commercial viability of truly ‘green’ hydrogen for a wide range of applications. We at Honda here in Swindon feel extremely privileged to be a part of this consortium and to host the facility on our site.”
Nathan Palmer, BOC director of bulk and packaged gases, commented: “This investment is proof of BOC’s long-term strategy, as a member of the Linde Group, to deliver economically viable and sustainable technology solutions for our customers and society. We are extremely proud to be part of this ground-breaking programme and I would like to thank our partners in the consortium and the Technology Strategy Board (Innovate UK) for their assistance in making this happen.”
Nick Rolf, BOC’s innovation manager – hydrogen systems, commented: “This enhancement to our refuelling station clearly positions this facility as the best in class in the UK. No other facility in the UK has the capacity to refuel vehicles with ‘green‘ high purity hydrogen on a commercial scale and this cements Swindon’s position as the key location for fuel cell vehicle introduction.”
Karen Sperrey, operations director at Fuel Cell Systems, said: “Using a PEM Fuel Cell to provide both power and heat to a building is a notable first in this power range. The project benefitted from our previous experiences of using hydrogen produced on site for infrastructure power.”
Simon Graham, environmental strategist at Commercial Group, said: “For the UK to meet our air quality and carbon targets, it is essential that we find new ways to deliver the goods and services that the economy depends on. Using hydrogen produced from sunlight to power vehicles has the potential to help solve both environmental challenges. Commercial is proud to be part of this consortium that is demonstrating that this solution is no dream but a reality.”