An innovative multi-million pound green hydrogen production facility at the Ballymena headquarters of globally renowned sustainable bus manufacturer Wrightbus, has won funding from the Government’s Net Zero Hydrogen Fund (NZHF).
Subject to planning approval, the new facility in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, which is being delivered by Wrightbus in partnership with Hygen Energy, will initially produce enough clean energy to power 300 hydrogen powered buses a day in Northern Ireland. Ryze Hydrogen will be responsible for distributing hydrogen to the region.
The Government launched the NZHF with the aim of supporting the commercial deployment of new low carbon hydrogen production projects. Today, as part of the Government’s Green Day, Hygen Energy, along with 14 others, were confirmed to have been allocated a total of £37.9 million.
Rob Best, Director of Engineering at Wrightbus said:
“We are delighted to have won funding for this hugely important project, alongside many other schemes which will support the hydrogen economy going forward.
“Decarbonising public transport requires a variety of solutions and for many bus routes, hydrogen is the best option. For this to happen, operators need a reliable, affordable and constant supply. Our plans will enable future demand for hydrogen here in Northern Ireland to be met.”
Andrew Newman, Managing Director of Hygen Energy, said:
“This is a flagship project for Northern Ireland, and strategically important for the UK as a whole.
“This project will initially be able to produce enough hydrogen to run up to 300 buses, and has the potential to triple in scale as demand for hydrogen increases, creating economic opportunities in Northern Ireland while supporting decarbonisation efforts and contributing to the UK Government’s targets for domestic renewable hydrogen production capacity.”
North Antrim MP Ian Paisley has welcomed today's announcement saying:
"The announcement of powering up Britain strategy today will have a significant impact in Northern Ireland and in particular for Wrightbus and hydrogen production.
"The massive strategy announces dozens of measures in the plan, which runs to 1,000 pages, covering from energy efficiency in domestic properties, to large infrastructure projects. It includes confirmation of £240m funding for green hydrogen projects.
"For Northern Ireland this includes a multi million pound investment in an electrolyser in Ballymena at Wrightbus making it the hub for hydrogen in Northern Ireland! This announcement is more good news for the economy in Ballymena and Northern Ireland.
"Wrightbus is at the forefront of the hydrogen revolution and today’s announcement is testament to its expertise in this field. It is testimony to the forward thinking of the company to make Ballymena the hub for hydrogen here, and secures Northern Ireland’s role in green tech, engineering and energy production. It is imperative that the company and country builds on this significant foundation".
Northern Ireland is home to the Bamford Bus Company Limited (trading as ‘Wrightbus’), one of the world’s leading manufacturers of hydrogen buses, and a public transport operator, Translink, that has made commitments to decarbonising its operations.
In line with other bus operators across the UK, it is anticipated that Translink will adopt electric buses for some of its routes, but there are likely to be a number of bus routes that will require hydrogen fuelled buses to be decarbonised.
There is currently a lack of local hydrogen production in Northern Ireland to meet the existing, limited, demand for hydrogen as a transport fuel. This absence of affordable, low carbon hydrogen supplies is likely to restrict the development of the hydrogen energy market in Northern Ireland until it is addressed.
Wrightbus (the ‘Company’) is proposing to address this issue by installing and operating a multi-megawatt low carbon hydrogen production and distribution system at its factory in Ballymena that will have the capability of meeting the total hydrogen demand of more than 250 buses. The project is being designed to enable the rapid expansion of hydrogen production should additional demand for low carbon hydrogen in Northern Ireland come forward.
The electrolyser will be directly coupled to a new solar photovoltaic system located adjacent to the Wrightbus factory in Ballymena. The hydrogen production system will also be connected to the electricity grid and supplied via other renewables such as onshore wind. This diversity of renewable energy supplies will ensure that hydrogen can be produced reliably throughout the year, and that the opportunities for the electrolyser to support integration of an increasing proportion of intermittent renewable generators into the energy system are maximised.
This will be a flagship project for Northern Ireland, and strategically important for the UK as a whole, as it will catalyse further zero emission bus deployment opportunities, help to raise the profile of Wrightbus and reinforce the Company’s leading position in the global hydrogen bus industry.
The project will thus create new economic opportunities within Northern Ireland while supporting decarbonisation efforts and contributing to the UK Government’s targets for domestic renewable hydrogen production capacity.