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Ynys Môn, or “Anglesey” is a beautiful island lying off the most north-west point of Wales. Its rolling rurality and heaps of coastline make it a popular tourist destination. It’s got a fascinating history in terms of energy creation which looks set to embrace emergent technology into the future. If you travel across the centre and the north of the island you’ll probably see some wind turbines, there are 3 onshore wind farms which are made up of a total of 72 turbines generating up to 33.2MW of power. Wylfa the large nuclear power station is situated on the northernmost tip of the island at Cemaes Bay and for many years produced power that was both exported to the national grid, but also used to supply Anglesey Aluminium, an aluminium works that had huge power requirements nearby on the island towards Holyhead.
The symbiotic relationship of Wylfa and Anglesey Aluminium made a lot of sense, as a power generator Wylfa had a local customer that could take lots of energy at a consistent price as well as sell to the more variably priced National Grid. This aspect of a “local” customer and UK grid supply interestingly has stuck as a model of working and is part of a fantastic cutting-edge pair of projects currently being developed on, and off, this beautiful island.
The Morlais Project is an exciting new development leading the way in emergent tidal energy generation. It’s a project from Menter Môn, an organisation that works across a range of sectors delivering innovative and interesting projects in partnership with communities, businesses and individuals. The Morlais project is creating the infrastructure for tidal stream energy generation at a 35km^2 site off the coast of Ynys Môn. Within this offshore area it’s creating 9 developer bays and tidal energy companies can apply to place their tidal stream energy generation systems in these bays. As such Morlais doesn’t actually produce the energy, but rather will become the landlord for companies generating in the Morlais bays. Each successful developer will be part of a Contract For Difference (CFD) which is a contract with the Welsh Government that guarantees a price per unit for the renewable electricity generated. This is a fantastic approach that allows tidal energy technology developers to have some stability to develop and deploy their technology in this emergent field. The Morlais project is now at the point of creating the infrastructure and tackling the not-insignificant, civil engineering aspects of the project.
One aspect of civil engineering is that each bay out at sea will require its own submarine cable to connect back to the land to bring the power ashore. Currently, teams are boring these 9 individual ducts out to sea which are 400mm in diameter each. Into this is inserted a 165mm diameter cable capable of carrying 30MW of power. These cables come back to land near South Stack and there are 3 buildings being built here which will host transition bays where the offshore cable is connected with the required switchgear, developer areas for each generating company, and offices. Through the planning and community consultation phase, these buildings have been designed to look like agricultural buildings from the outside so they will blend and fit in with the surrounding environment and farming.
On a similar theme of environmental impact, the Morlias project, with numerous partners including Natural Resources Wales and St Andrews University is undertaking huge research programs assessing and evaluating what wildlife is affected by the offshore sites. This includes a multi-million-pound process of monitoring and identifying all the species that visit the 35km^2 site and cutting-edge research into how to deter this wildlife from encroaching on the system whilst maintaining the diversity of the environment. This is complex work as the actual technology that developers may bring to the site is emergent and may sit on the surface, below the surface or on the sea bed. It’s reassuring to see this fascinating and essential work to minimise the impact of this low-carbon energy scheme on the seascape taking place.
From the Southstack site, there is another cable laid underground to Parc Cybi. Parc Cybi is a Business Park located around 5 km in a direct line from Southstack. It has easy access to the main A55 dual carriageway and is a short distance from Holyhead port and also is very close to the old Anglesey Aluminium site. In the first instance Morlais is going to operate at 33kV and at Parc Cybi there is a 33kV Scottish Power Energy Network (SPEN) substation where Morlais will connect and feed into the grid. As the project scales and more developers deploy tidal energy generation technology the system will move to 132kV and this connection will be moved over to use the existing connection that was created for Anglesey Aluminium, reusing this infrastructure. As such the cable from Southstack to the Parc Cybi site is capable of 132kV.
There is a lovely parallel with the Wylfa and Anglesey Aluminium relationship within the Morlais project. Another project developed by Mentor Môn is the Hydrogen Hub project which is going to be situated at Parc Cybi and will generate hydrogen. De-carbonising sectors such as vehicles is a difficult and complex aim and whilst battery focussed EVs are a massive part of that process increasingly hydrogen and fuel cell technology are being looked at as well. This in turn gives rise to the issue of creating hydrogen and of course, creating that hydrogen using low-carbon energy. As such, there is funding in place to support the generation of hydrogen using renewable energy. The Hydrogen Hub project will create initially 300kg of hydrogen per day using a 1MW Electrolyser. In order to meet its funding requirements this 1MW of electricity must be provided from renewable sources. As such part of the power supply for the Hydrogen Hub will be provided by the Morlais Tidal Energy project. This is a lovely relationship that means that Morlais has a guaranteed customer for its energy and the Hydrogen Hub has a partial solution to its energy needs. Why partial? Well, of course, the Morlais scheme is tidal and as such the power generation will fluctuate with the tides and cannot always provide all the Hydrogen Hub power requirements. In the short term, this is simply remedied by the Hydrogen Hub buying energy from the grid via a renewable energy supplier, but this situation also creates motivation and a need for other renewable energy solutions to be looked at on the island. Adding battery storage to the Morlais project would be an interesting project, or indeed adding other renewable sources like solar and more wind power to all work together to make a complete renewable picture for the Hydrogen Hub and Ynys Môn.
Around the UK there are numerous hydrogen generation schemes and some are producing hydrogen more aimed at industrial uses whereas the Hydrogen Hub is more focused on hydrogen production for vehicles. Whilst this is an emergent sector, the Hydrogen Hub team have researched and discovered a lot of interest in hydrogen and potential customers. In fact, whilst the initial project is still in the planning, permissions and land acquisition phase they are already considering how the expansion of the scheme in terms of hydrogen creation could happen. A lot of potential local customers for hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles are farming and agriculture customers, hydrogen fuel cells are an excellent solution for plant vehicles and equipment and the Port of Holyhead similarly has a large fleet of plant vehicles that could potentially be moved over to hydrogen. There are already options for hybrid cargo trucks that use both traditional battery EV technology and Hydrogen Fuel Cells to maximise their range and the Hydrogen Hub being situated so near a major port makes it a critical part of this emergent infrastructure. Hydrogen produced at the hub can also be transported in tube trailers and as such the Hydrogen Hub project is looking at developing numerous “spokes” around the hub which will broaden the reach of the hydrogen technology. With hydrogen sites across the island and over onto mainland North Wales it’s easy to see how this will grow a hydrogen network across the UK linking up to sites already in existence at Deeside and further into Merseyside and beyond. The Hydrogen Hub site at Parc Cybi is also including fast charging facilities for electric vehicles again sourced from renewable energy adding clean infrastructure to the EV networks on the island.
It’s great to see both these projects developing in this remote and rural part of Wales. The Morlais project offers a turnkey solution for global companies looking to deploy their innovative tidal technologies without having to do all the underlying work in establishing permissions and infrastructure. It’s hoped that this influx of developers will bring with it a need for workers and as such the Morlais project and Menter Môn are forging links with local colleges to ensure that the skills needed for the future of these projects can be met locally. Similarly, Menter Môn will reinvest profits from both these schemes back into the area, so not only creating clean and sustainable energy but creating opportunity and development across this beautiful island and beyond.