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Zero-emission aviation project takes off at Orkney's Kirkwall Airport

Zero-Emission-Aviation-Project-Takes-off-in-Orkney Zero emission aviation project takes off at Orkneys

Internal flights between the Orkney Islands are to become greener. A recently launched eighteen-month project will test various low carbon emission aircraft on short routes between the islands. The aircraft power sources will include hydrogen fuel cells, batteries, and sustainable aviation fuels. The project will also assess the feasibility of using drones for delivering medical supplies.

 These trials are part of a broader plan announced by the Scottish Government to create "UK's first operationally-based, low-carbon aviation test centre" based at Orkney's Kirkwall Airport. The project, acronym SATE (Sustainable Aviation Test Environment), includes a large consortium of players from various sectors, including academia, industry specialists, local businesses, and the public sector.

Scotland's Michael Matheson, the Transport Secretary for Scotland, said that the project formed a significant step in Scotland's plan to decarbonise scheduled passenger flights within the country by 2040.

 Decarbonisation of Kirkwall Airport infrastructure

Funded by the Scottish Government through Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the project also aims to decarbonise Kirkwall Airport's infrastructure by replacing its cooling and heating system with a combined heat and power supply system (CHP) based on green hydrogen.

The novel CHP solution will include a new hydrogen combustion engine developed by Doosan Babcock and 2G, integrated with the airport's current systems. The system will provide the total needs of power and heating for the airport's main buildings. The heat produced by the hydrogen combustion engine will be recycled for space heating.

Additional aspects of the project include digital networking and resilient communications. Research on the socio-economic impact of the project and of the skills and training needed to support the new technologies will also be carried out.

Sourcing Green Hydrogen 

EMEC (The European Marine Energy Centre) will provide the green hydrogen used in the project from its hydrogen production plant at Caldale on Eday.

The EMEC Hydrogen Development Manager James Walker commented that "Decarbonising heating requires innovative solutions and is a challenge that must be tackled in delivering net-zero energy systems, including in aviation. Orkney is now well established as a 'living laboratory' where new technologies, and their roles in delivering a future clean energy system, are demonstrated."

SATE Stakeholders 

The SATE consortium includes participants from a wide range of organisations. These include:

• The project is led by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL)
• Funding partners include UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and the Scottish Government through HIE. The total budget is £3.7 million.
• Technology partners include Ampaire, Flarebright, Loganair, Windracers, and ZeroAvia will carry out work on low carbon aircraft and drones
• The academic contribution will be provided by the University of the Highlands and Islands
• Other partners include Denchi Group, EMEC, Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS), Orkney-based Cloudnet, Air Service Training, and the Orkney Islands Council


Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish Government's Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, commented that SATE is the first project of its kind in the UK. He added that "The Scottish Government is committed to supporting the aspirations of our islands communities to become hubs of energy innovation and climate change leaders, with an emphasis on energy transition, renewable energy and hydrogen production and this project will help inform our options on practical measures on how aviation can help achieve those goals."

Globally, aviation accounts for 3.5% of global warming and 2.5% of carbon dioxide emissions. While we have potential solutions for many greenhouse gas sources, including power and road transport – the remaining challenge is scaling them – despite Airbus's plans to produce the world's first zero-emission commercial aircraft by 2035, decarbonising aviation remains a considerable problem. Thus, Orkney's Kirkwall Airport project is likely to make a significant contribution.
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