Swindon sets off on road to become UK’s leading hydrogen-powered town

October 29, 2013

An ambitious action programme has been launched in Swindon is to position the town as the UK’s centre of excellence for hydrogen technology.

The potential of the ‘energy of the future’ will be harnessed in a wide range of initiatives spanning the use of hydrogen to power fork-lift trucks in the town’s warehouses and commercial vehicles on its roads to small-scale renewable energy production for local business and homes.

Forward Swindon, the council’s economic development business, believes the town has a head start as it already boasts a bedrock of innovative companies working on fuel cells and low-carbon transport. It also opened the UK’s first public-use hydrogen fuel station two years ago and is leading the country is seeking commercial applications for hydrogen.

Hydrogen can be produced from almost any energy source and converted to power and heat with high efficiency and zero emissions for transport, industrial and heating/lighting.

In theory it can be stored in large amounts and so can overcome problems linked to security of supply and flexibility for existing power production methods.

To look at ways that Swindon can steal a march on other towns in this area, Forward Swindon has formed the Swindon Hydrogen Group with a number of public organisations, including Swindon Council, and private firms such as car giant Honda, which manufactures cars and engines in the town, and Johnson Matthey, which is pioneering production of fuel cells at its Swindon plant.

The group has produced the Swindon Hydrogen Roadmap which sets out how hydrogen could boost the town’s economic development, create jobs and put it at the leading edge for innovation in an area likely to be a major contributor to the UK’s economy in future decades.

By next spring the group will have identified a number of priority projects and initiatives to pursue. These could include pilot schemes for hydrogen-fuelled buses or taxis, a car club with hydrogen vehicles for public use, and possibly two additional hydrogen fuel stations in the town in addition to the public one at Honda’s South Marston car plant.

There could also be an opportunity to look at creating training courses in the type of skills that will be required in a ‘hydrogen-powered’ economy and a combined heat-and-power plant using hydrogen.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DEC) predicts a significant role for hydrogen in temporary energy storage and grid balancing while the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) predicts that the UK fuel cell market might be worth around £1bn by 2020.

A report on the Swindon Hydrogen Group prepared for the council and presented at a recent cabinet meeting, says: “Swindon, potentially, is very well placed to benefit from this growth in the hydrogen fuel cell market through indigenous companies and subsequent inward investment opportunities.

“Ultimately, a future vision for Swindon would see the town benefitting from an increased share of manufacturers and employees in the hydrogen technologies sector, built on an attractive and dedicated inward investment offer, a bespoke programme of education and training opportunities, and a diverse range of related demonstrator projects.”

Members of the Swindon Hydrogen Group are: Forward Swindon, Swindon Borough Council, Business West, Swindon Commercial Services,  Honda, ITM Power, Johnson Matthey, Wales & West Utilities, Swindon University Technical College, Science Museum, Swindon & Wiltshire LEP and the University of Bath, and Advanced Plasma Power, the world leader of waste to energy and advanced fuels technology based at South Marston.




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