Vision: 2025 asks PlusZero’s director of story, Mark Irving, about the growing market for its green hydrogen portable power offer at events.
In 2021, PlusZero ran series of trials for its green hydrogen-fuelled generators to power high-profile events as diverse as COP26, the Edinburgh Festival and the international Extreme E sports car rally in Dorset. Fast forward to June 2022 and the company hit the headlines with plans to power Scotland’s HebCelt Festival at Stornoway using green hydrogen produced locally on the Scottish Western Isles.
Here Mark Irving updates us on the learning from the trial events, what makes green hydrogen green, the results of PlusZero’s research into public perceptions, and why it is committed to education on the efficacy of hydrogen as a combustion fuel.
“Hydrogen’s potential as a renewable energy source across diverse energy applications is creating huge interest worldwide. Green hydrogen is forecast to meet up to 22% of total global energy demand by 2050 with an annual sales value of up to $600 billion”.
(International Renewable Energy Agency IRENA, Jan 2022).
Why do we need carbon-free power? Well, $14bn is spent annually on diesel generators worldwide, in sectors as diverse as outdoor events, film location powering, construction and back-up power, in fact anywhere where portable (off-grid) power is needed. These diesel generators burn 95bn litres of diesel at a cost of $126bn and emit 250m tonnes CO2e per annum.
In order to meet global net-zero targets we need a carbon-free alternative. To achieve this, PlusZero provides a fully integrated, end-to-end green hydrogen solution: production, distribution, operation.
What is green hydrogen?
Green hydrogen is defined as hydrogen produced by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable electricity.
PlusZero Energy is our green hydrogen production and distribution business that’s already producing green hydrogen at our Western Isles site. Using electricity produced by locally sourced wind power, we convert water into green hydrogen and oxygen through a process of electrolysis. It’s ‘green’ because the wind power is fully renewable. One of Scotland’s great natural gifts is the ready availability of wind, with the Western Isles offering rapid scalability (between 1GW to 2GW) to become one of the biggest production centres for green hydrogen in Europe.
PlusZero Power is our clean power business, bringing a modular range of hydrogen-fuelled generators to the market that replace polluting diesel versions (which are often unregulated). The UK market alone for portable diesel generators is worth £0.5bn. Think of the CO2 and other emissions we could prevent (and the air quality we’d improve) if even a large fraction of these were converted to work on green hydrogen!
Internal combustion engine familiarity
Our research has discovered that most crews using portable power (whether they’re making the next Netflix series, creating a major outdoor event or building a new hospital) like to work with what they know best; an internal combustion engine (ICE). That’s why our approach is to produce generators using hydrogen-fuelled combustion engines that work in almost the same way as diesel ones, but without the CO2 and NOX. Easy to learn, easy to use.
There’s significant proven demand in the UK, EU and GCC (Gulf) for the clean portable power offer that green hydrogen provides. The main limiting factor to scaling up the business to enable us to respond fully to our customer pipeline demand is the current shortage of green hydrogen. That’s why we’re also seeking investment to scale up our PlusZero Energy business to 50MW (first phase).
A big issue is public recognition: while investors are thronging around hydrogen, people generally don’t know much about it. Therefore, we commissioned a report into public perceptions of hydrogen in Scotland, with some surprising results (younger people are the least knowledgeable about it, even though they are more likely to be interested in environmental issues).
While lots of businesses in the renewables space talk about hydrogen, very few of them have delivered. We spent 2021 undertaking a series of demonstrator trials of our green hydrogen-fuelled generators to power high-profile events as diverse as COP26, the Edinburgh Festival, the international Extreme E sports car rally in Dorset, and a major Scottish government hosted event at Edinburgh Castle. All were world firsts in terms of using green hydrogen. That’s why our brand strapline is ‘We’re Making Hydrogen Happen’.
A festival first
We learned a lot from doing these events: understanding the challenges of pioneering clean portable power – from getting generators ready to transporting them and the green hydrogen to site, to educating clients and potentially sceptical partners about the beautiful circularity and sheer efficacy of hydrogen as a combustion fuel – formed from water, its waste product is water.
And now we’re powering the wonderful 2022 HebCelt Festival at Stornoway. We’ll be using our combustion-engine based generators to provide clean power for the event’s Islands Stage for three days and nights, powering 12 different acts. It will be the first festival in Scotland to run a full stage consecutively for the duration of a whole event on green hydrogen.
HebCelt is right on our doorstep, so we’re really thrilled to be bringing clean portable power to our neighbours – green hydrogen power that’s been produced on the Western Isles. It’s an important example of how clean energy, when produced with the consent of local community organisations, can return its social and environmental benefits directly to local people. It’s a community-based solution with a global footprint. What we’re doing here can be replicated across the world, and that’s why our ambitions are truly international.
What about the carbon?
Let’s not forget the core mission. Here’s one example. Based on figures provided for diesel use at the last HebCelt Festival in 2019, the use of our green hydrogen-fuelled generators will save over 1,000 litres of diesel use and over three tonnes of CO2 emissions. This is approximately the equivalent of 27 car journeys from Edinburgh to Stornoway and back, based on average mpg figures.
Imagine this replicated for every outdoor event in the UK. And then at every construction site, film location – anywhere using portable power.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Irving is director of story for PlusZero, a leading green hydrogen clean power solutions provider supporting the rapid decarbonisation of sectors reliant on diesel generators.
For more information, see www.pluszero.energy and join PlusZero in making hydrogen happen.
This article originally appeared in the June 2022 Vision: 2025 newsletter.