We spoke to Barbara Whiting, Lead Officer Renewables Enterprise and Environment, and Tom Henderson, Service Manager Fleet Operations, both from Fife Council, in a bid to learn more about their work with renewable energy and their hydrogen bin lorries – something that they believe may be a world first.
1. Tell us about the project you’re working on.
Fife Council is part of the Levenmouth Community Energy Project, which also includes Toshiba and is led by Bright Green Hydrogen. The project is a pioneering industry development aimed at shaping the future prosperity of Levenmouth communities through a number of green hydrogen projects.
Its importance was recognised by the Scottish Government, which awarded the project a grant of over £4 million in March 2015 to help kick start the scheme. The project has also subsequently secured funding from Transport Scotland to support the installation of a hydrogen storage and refuelling station at its Bankhead vehicle depot in Glenrothes.
2. What are the key aims of the Levenmouth Community Energy Project?
We aim to see the Hydrogen Office developed into the world’s foremost demonstrator of innovative applications of hydrogen derived from renewable sources. Hydrogen will be stored at the business park area and reconverted into electricity at times when on-site wind and solar generation is low, helping to offset the intermittency of renewable production and, as a result, improve the facility’s ability to be energy self-sufficient.
We also aim to make Levenmouth the home of one of Europe’s largest fleet of hydrogen dual-fuel vehicles. This is the latest form of technology deployed in a bid to decarbonise the use of energy in Scotland. The great thing about hydrogen is that, when used to power vehicles, their only emission is water vapour.
Within just three months of the project being given the grant money, Fife Council awarded a contract worth around £1.5 million to Inverkeithing-based RCV manufacturer Heil Farid for the supply of nine refuse collection vehicles (RCV). Two of these vehicles are specifically designated to the Levenmouth project and will be converted to run on diesel and hydrogen, which we believed to be a world-first.
3. How is the local industry/community benefitting from the project?
Residents in the wider Fife region will definitely benefit from the Council’s contract award. The new RCV vehicles will result in quieter refuse collections and significantly reduced carbon emissions, as well as benefitting the air quality for local communities. This is because they are fitted with power take offs and dual-fuel technology that both reduces noise and improves fuel efficiency during driving as well as loading and packing.
The Levenmouth project will also help local Fife businesses to boost their green energy credentials by leasing out its dual-fuel powered vans, including 10 electric-powered vans with H2 fuel cell range extender. These vehicles actually have zero emissions if charged using the Hydrogen Office’s 100% green electric vehicle charging station. Also, the hydrogen range extender doubles the range of an electric van, allowing it to travel up to 200 miles before charging is required. As well as these vans, the project also includes 5 Transit dual-fuel diesel-hydrogen vehicles which are to be owned and operated by Fife Council.
Educational initiatives are also integral to the Hydrogen Office and Levenmouth project with Bright Green Hydrogen being involved with a number of key partnerships with schools and colleges, as well as industry and educational organisations. In conjunction with Fife Council's Culture of Enterprise, we also run the annual Energy Enterprise Challenge for primary pupils across the region while we regularly host education visits to the Hydrogen Office.
Local environmental charity, Greener Kirkcaldy will also benefit from the Levenmouth project with a percentage of surplus income to be given to the charity LVDT to support sustainable energy projects.
4. What impact have the 2 RCVs running on hydrogen/diesel had to refuse collection?
Previously, the Council’s refuse collection vehicles consumed a significant amount of diesel, greatly impacting on air quality improvement and carbon emission reduction. However, with these new hydrogen RCVs, the carbon reduction is expected to be around 50% of what it once was – a vast decrease.
These vehicles are fitted with power take offs and dual-fuel technology that both reduces noise and improves fuel efficiency during driving, and during loading and packing. The dual-fuel technology also allows an introduction to hydrogen fuel without having to pay the high costs of hydrogen fuel cells which runs on 100% hydrogen. The vehicles can also operate in diesel only mode in the event there is any interruption to the hydrogen supply.
The 2 Mercedes Econics chassis vehicles have Heil PowerLink bodies and Terberg bin lifters. An ECOpto drive system enables the use of a much larger hydraulic pump which means that when the vehicle is operating the packer and bin lifts, the engine does not need to rev so high. This results in less fuel being used and is also much quieter in operation, making early morning and late evening rounds more environmentally friendly.
5. Do you feel Fife's emerging hydrogen project has the potential to be world leading?
Definitely! There are already signs of this happening. The Levenmouth Community Energy Project is expected to bring significant economic benefits to the area and is widely considered as a valuable demonstration of how hydrogen can decarbonise transport applications in Scotland and help secure future energy supplies for generations to come. As such, it is expected to come under the international spotlight. The scheme is also currently the most complex hydrogen project outside of Japan that Toshiba has been involved with, which reinforces the scale of the scheme.
This project also demonstrates how renewable energy can greatly benefit the grid nationally and create one of Europe’s largest fleets of dual-fuel vehicles. Fife’s hydrogen credentials are industry leading.
The project has received widespread industry and community support, with the extent and high calibre of the project partners being testament to this. Together, combined with a real pride and passion, this makes for a powerful force to ensuring we achieve our green hydrogen aspirations.