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EMEC to deploy flow batteries with tidal energy to produce green hydrogen

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The European Marine Energy Center (EMEC), Orkney, Scotland, will deploy an Invinity Energy Systems 1.8 MWh flow battery at the EMEC tidal energy test site on the island of Eday.

For the first time in the world, the project would combine flow battery technology with tidal power to generate continuous green hydrogen.

This unique combination of tidal power and flow batteries will be used to power the hydrogen production plant of EMEC, demonstrating the continuous production of hydrogen from variable renewable generation.

The commercialization of green hydrogen is a crucial step towards a 100 percent sustainable future. Green hydrogen is generated and used without carbon emissions and can substitute fossil fuels in the energy mix, facilitating the decarbonization of the heavy industry and the transport sector.

The Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult estimates that building a green hydrogen industry will generate 120,000 jobs and deliver £320 billion to the UK economy by 2050.

Funded by the Scottish Government, through Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Invinity’s modular flow battery system will be installed at the company’s production facility in Bathgate, West Lothian, and will consist of eight Invinity VS3 battery modules connected together into a single system.

The project is expected to be going live next year.

“We are delighted to support this world-first innovative energy systems project in Orkney, with £1.8 million of funding from the Scottish Government. The demonstration of hydrogen and systems integration with renewables will be a key part of our energy transition pathways and we look forward to watching the progress of this exciting and pioneering project, building on the strong track record of Orkney and EMEC, in particular, in demonstrating hydrogen and integrated energy systems.”

Paul Wheelhouse, scotland’s energy minister.

Invinity’s Vanadium Flow Batteries (VFBs) are a type of heavy-duty, stationary energy storage that is deployed in high-use industrial applications. They include hours of continuous power, one or more times a day, across decades of operation.

This makes them the ideal candidate to regulate the generation of tidal energy, an application where more traditional lithium-ion batteries will degrade and ultimately wear out.

Tide generation is predictable but unpredictable, with two high and two low tides occurring every day. This is an extremely heavy-duty cycle application, involving up to four cycles per day, compared to solar-coupled energy storage projects that usually require just one charge and discharge per day.

At EMEC, the system will store and discharge the electricity generated by the tidal turbines during high power periods during low power periods. This will create a ‘smooth’ tidal generation of continuous, on-demand electricity to convert to hydrogen using an EMEC 670 kW hydrogen electrolyser.

This will optimize the production of hydrogen at the site to allow tons of green hydrogen to be generated each year.

“EMEC’s core purpose is to demonstrate technologies in new and inspired ways to decarbonize our energy system. This is the first time that a flow battery will have been coupled with tidal energy and hydrogen production, and will support the development of the innovative energy storage solution being developed in the Interreg NWE ITEG project.

“Following a technical review looking at how to improve the efficiencies of the electrolyser we assessed that flow batteries would be the best fit for the energy system. As flow batteries store electrical charge in a liquid rather than a solid, they can provide industrial quantities of power for a sustained period, can deeply discharge without damaging itself, as well as stand fully charged for extended periods without losing charge. These are all necessary qualities to integrate battery technology with the renewable power generation and hydrogen production process.”

Neil Kermode, managing director at EMEC.

“We are thrilled to be part of this Scottish success story, showcasing the best of clean energy technology, backed by Scottish Government, designed and assembled in West Lothian by highly qualified Scottish engineers and installed in the Orkney Islands.

“This project is truly groundbreaking. Because of their inherent variability, all renewable energy sources – including wind, solar and tidal – have difficulty providing the consistent power that industrial processes like electrolysis need to operate most effectively. Including energy storage in a comprehensive renewables-to-hydrogen system bridges that gap, providing a path to accelerated commercialization of future green hydrogen projects.

“Vanadium flow batteries are the perfect partner for tidal power, continually absorbing then dispatching four or more hours of continuous power, multiple times per day, over decades of service – a duty cycle that would rapidly degrade lithium batteries.

“Invinity eagerly anticipates working with EMEC to validate both their vision, and our VFB’s unique fit, for this revolutionary application.”

Matt Harper, CCO at Invinity.

“The establishment of EMEC in 2003 was a key factor in placing Orkney at the international forefront of renewable energy development, particularly in the marine sector. Demonstration of the production/use of green hydrogen within the Orkney energy system is the latest in a series of highly innovative projects in these islands that have helped us maintain our global lead ever since.

“Investing in the growth of Scotland’s green economy has been a feature of HIE’s approach for many years and will play a vital role in our future plans to support recovery from the economic impacts of COVID-19.

“We are very proud to be able to facilitate this exciting initiative and grateful to the Scottish Government for making its funding available.”

Graeme Harrison, Orkney area manager with HIE.
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