GenComm: How Northern Ireland can benefit from Green Hydrogen

Belfast Metropolitan College is the lead partner of an exciting renewable energy project. The GenComm project seeks to make better use of alternative energy sources by demonstrating the use of hydrogen (H2) as a safe, clean and reliable energy storage technology for communities.

GenComm (GENerating energy secure COMMunities); is a Smart Hydrogen (SMARTH2) Integrated renewable energy generation and storage project designed to develop a new model for exploiting generated electricity from renewable sources to provide energy security for remote communities.”

One of the GenComm pilot plants is the Long Mountain Wind Farm in County Antrim, where they are going to demonstrate hydrogen production via electrolysis. Green hydrogen is produced using wind power to generate renewable energy and electrolysis to split water. The captured hydrogen gas can then be used in transport, heating and in fuel cells to generate electricity.

Sustainable Energy Generation

Even as production of renewable energy increases in Northern Ireland, we are still reliant on imported fossil fuels to supply our energy needs. Climate Change policies demand that this changes. One of GenComm’s goals is to demonstrate how hydrogen can be a commercially viable and sustainable energy medium for the future. 

Northern Ireland is Windy

Northern Ireland is ideal for generating electricity via wind farms. However, we currently cannot store excess electricity which is why you might notice turbines that aren’t moving on a windy day. At the Long Mountain Windfarm, Energia (a GenComm partner) are going to use this excess to produce hydrogen. This increases the efficiency of the wind farm. 

Why Hydrogen?

Hydrogen is easily stored and transported unlike electricity storage. Hydrogen is also extremely versatile, making it possible not only to decarbonise areas like transport and heating where renewable energy has potential, but also to decarbonise industrial processes which cannot be converted to electricity.

Northern Ireland can take advantage of hydrogen in ways that other countries cannot. We have an abundance of onshore and offshore renewable resources combined with modern gas and electricity networks with interconnection to Great Britain and Ireland. We also have a history of innovative engineering and manufacturing matched by high quality educational institutions. This gives Northern Ireland an opportunity to pioneer green hydrogen production.

Smart hydrogen GenComm pilot plants in northwest Europe
Smart hydrogen GenComm pilot plants in northwest Europe

The push for green hydrogen

Large amounts of renewable energy is currently going to waste. However, this excess energy could be used to produce green hydrogen. This fuel can be used in transport and for both domestic and industrial heat. Green hydrogen can provide an energy solution for those industries which find it difficult to decarbonise via direct electrification. 

What can the hydrogen economy do for Northern Ireland?

  • Enable gas companies to utilise existing infrastructure and generation network to maintain relevance whilst integrating intermediary fuels
  • Empowering petrochemical [or] hydrocarbon based companies to utilise intermediary fuels such as grey/blue hydrogen (natural gas/CCUS) to maximise asset utilisation and avoid stranded assets 
  • Informing industry to make long-term planning for decarbonisation and transfer to green energy options 
  • Establishing a new ‘innovation value chain’ for this emerging low carbon sector. This would enable and empower industry and others to develop on a distributed basis across the region, avoiding supply chain bottle necks, delivering a regionally balanced economy

Hydrogen has the versatility and capacity to fill the gaps where electricity cannot easily or economically replace fossil fuels and where limited sustainable bioenergy supplies cannot cope with demand. This includes using hydrogen-based fuels for ships and planes, as well as hydrogen in heavy industries like steel and chemicals.

It is this versatility and adaptability that has shifted the energy equation in favour of green hydrogen and why governments, industry and investors alike see such potential for economic, social, commercial and environmental returns.

Renewable and hydrogen technologies are key to the development of our future energy systems and without projects like GenComm, we would not have the capacity to fully explore the potential of smart hydrogen and its commercial value.

Follow the progress of GenComm:

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