Wrightbus has unveiled plans for a £3 million green hydrogen production facility at its Northern Ireland headquarters that could enter operation next year.
The new facility, subject to consultation and planning approval, would produce enough clean energy to power 300 hydrogen powered buses a day in and around Ballymena, according to Wrightbus.
Green hydrogen is a renewable fuel, meaning it does not create any carbon emissions. It is made via electrolysis, using renewable electricity to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, with the latter then used as fuel either on-site or transported to where it is needed.
Wrightbus, which introduced the world’s first hydrogen powered fleet of double-decker buses in 2020, would deliver the project in partnership with Hygen Energy.
A community consultation process for the project is now underway to encourage nearby residents to provide their feedback on the proposed project.
A planning application is expected to be submitted to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council in April 2023. It is hoped a decision will be issued in winter 2023, meaning the facility will become operational in summer 2024.
Jo Bamford, chairman of Wrightbus, said: “Wrightbus is delighted to be working with Hygen on this hydrogen production project at our factory in Ballymena.
“One of our key objectives when we purchased Wrightbus in 2019 was to bring the first UK manufactured hydrogen double decker bus to market.
“We have done this, with our Hydroliner buses now moving passengers every day in a number of cities across the UK, including here in Belfast.
“Hydrogen is the best means of decarbonising many bus routes, but for this to happen bus operators need a reliable and voluminous supply of low cost low carbon hydrogen. It is great to see a project that is being sized to enable future demand for hydrogen here in Northern Ireland to be met.
“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. We hope it will set an example for how these projects will be designed and built.”