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Caithness News Bulletins February 2006

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Hydrogen Now

Unst, in Shetland, is to benefit from jobs, inward migration and new investment with the establishment of a hydrogen company that will commercialise the work of PURE (Promoting Unst Renewable Energy).

The PURE project was set up in March 2004 by a community group, the Unst Partnership, and within two years has developed a unique facility for generating hydrogen using wind power to supply an industrial estate on Unst. The hydrogen is stored and used when there is no wind to supply electricity, which means that the estate is powered solely from renewable energy resources. The project has helped put the Shetland Isles on the map for innovative renewable energy developments.

Back Row -- Left to Right: Ross Gazey (Pure), Robin Duncan (Pure), Sandy Macaulay (Pure), David Sutherland (Pure)
Front Row -- Left to Right: Laura Stewart (Pure), Jock Campbell (MD of JGC Engineering and Technical Services Ltd), John Priddy
(Development Officer North highland), John Rosie (Director Ormlie Community Council, Convenor of the Caithness Community Council),
Susan Smith (Head of Business Development, Caithness & Sutherland Enterprise), Patrick Ross Smith (Pure).

The project, which also incorporates the only licensed hydrogen fuel cell car in Scotland, has enabled the Unst Partnership to establish close links with several academic research institutions including Imperial College London, Loughborough University, De Montfort University and Strathclyde, St Andrews and Robert Gordon Universities.

The Unst Partnership is now building on its success by establishing the PURE Energy Centre Ltd (PEC) to commercialise and further develop their hydrogen-based products.

The PEC will develop two key products: the Hy-Pod, which is a containerised hydrogen generation and fuel cell unit; and training courses on renewable hydrogen and its use.

The PEC will be run as an independent commercial venture. For the Unst Partnership, the fundamental purpose of the project is to secure a long-term contribution to job creation, economic development, business support, inward migration in order to provide sustainability of the Unst community.

The project has been assisted with investment of 150,000 from Shetland Enterprise and 150,000 from the Highlands and Islands Community Energy Company (HICEC).

Ann Black, chief executive of Shetland Enterprise, said: "This is a very exciting project for Unst, which now has to diversify its economy following the closure of the RAF base at Saxa Vord - the impact of which was felt across the whole community.

"The PEC is in an ideal position to develop and commercialise hydrogen-based projects, and to help the Shetland Isles become a centre of excellence for hydrogen technology in the UK.

"The PURE project has already resulted in significant economic benefits. It has attracted six young Shetland engineering graduates back to the island, there has been other inward migration, significant media interest and 200 additional visitors to Unst over the last year. We are therefore delighted to see the project is growing and that there will be further benefits for the Unst community."

Nicholas Gubbins, chief executive of the HICEC, said: "In addition to direct employment and economic benefits, the longer term aim for the PEC is for it to deliver a financial return to the Unst Partnership, allowing it to undertake further investment in the development of the Unst community.

"The Highlands and Islands has an abundance of renewable energy sources, but currently the only way of commercialising our renewable energy is by exporting electricity through a weak distribution network. This network is becoming increasingly expensive and complex to upgrade. The production of hydrogen offers an alternative option, producing fuel that can be used in engines, fuel cells producing electricity or direct heat.

"This new technology will allow other communities within the Highlands and Islands to develop hydrogen-based renewable energy projects. Developing skills is a key aspect of this community development and having the PEC facility and knowledge in Shetland will be central to this process."

Daniel Aklil, managing director of PEC, said: "This is an exciting time for the PEC team. The investment is a definite vote of confidence for our business by major investors. This investment will ensure that the team continues to lead the way in the development and sales of hydrogen-based products. Our business is unique in the world and we will make sure that it stays so."

For further information on HICEC log onto www.hie.co.uk/community-energy.html