Aberdeen could be first in the race for greener energy in homes

A proposed residential development in the Bridge of Don could be the first in Scotland to use hydrogen to power homes, if planning consent is granted.

The developers behind the plans for Cloverhill have secured a commitment from Panasonic to trial the use of hydrogen fuel cells to heat and power a proportion of the proposed 550 homes at Cloverhill, in what would be a first for the city and Scotland.

The Aberdeen Hydrogen First project is a pilot aiming to test the performance of micro-CHP technology against the manufacturer’s claims that households could lower their CO2 emissions by up to 30%, lower their fuel consumption by up to 40% and save up to £378 per year.

Initially, thirty of the homes at the site would be fitted with fuel cells which transform the same natural gas, that powers most homes, into hydrogen that will then be used to generate electricity and heat. If the benefits of the technology are proven, there is potential for it to be retrofitted in homes connected to the gas grid to reduce emissions of existing housing stock.

Hydrogen power is a fast-growing sustainable alternative to traditional power sources and is being implemented in developments across the globe including the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Village.

A report by the Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce shows that the pilot would support the Energetica Corridor – an area spanning from Aberdeen to Peterhead which aims to grow the region’s position in the international energy sector – in its ambitions to attract investment to the area by innovators like Panasonic.

This is backed up by Invest Aberdeen who believe the project presents an innovative low carbon investment opportunity for the region. In its response to the planners, James Welsh, investment executive, says: “It is clear that reducing the carbon footprint of buildings continues to be an important factor in reducing overall carbon emissions benefitting both the environment but also as a contribution to reducing fuel poverty and generating investment in innovative pilot projects.”

The hydrogen project represents a £500,000 investment from developer Cognito Oak LLP, a partnership between HBD and Wraith Real Estate.

Nigel Munro of HBD said: “Our vision at Cloverhill is to create an attractive, inclusive and sustainable new community that will be low carbon. This hydrogen project would offer residents a unique opportunity to try a new way of powering their homes that would save money and reduce their carbon footprint. Aberdeen has become a trail-blazer in hydrogen and this pilot would make the city a national first in the race against climate change.

“With the government’s ambitious emission reduction targets and an increasing appetite amongst consumers for sustainable alternative source of power, the scheme could pave the way for both future developments and existing homes across Scotland to switch to hydrogen energy.”

Invest Aberdeen say the development of a residential hydrogen heating pilot project in Aberdeen is another step in developing that integrated “whole system” view to heat and transport, alongside electricity generation and energy efficiency.

Mr Welsh added: “This is a step toward a full hydrogen fuel cell residential heating scheme and the pilot in Aberdeen will provide valuable data of how this technology works in the Scottish climate and what the “real world” energy efficiencies are and how they can be improved upon. It is particularly positive to see the integration of fuel cell technology into the first phase homes and demonstrates a willingness of the developer to deliver the pilot project within the Energetica corridor, contributing to the wider objectives by supporting and delivering local solutions to meet local needs, linking local generation and use, which can help create vibrant local energy economies that can also generate income through sale of surplus energy.”