Just whose idea was it for a hydrogen plant at Blackmains?

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GREEN energy company Enertrag have vehemently denied plans to build a hydrogen plant adjacent to their proposed wind farm at Blackmains near Ayton, but emails between the company and Scottish Borders Council clearly show that a discussion about such a plant did take place last month.

Now Enertrag are claiming that Scottish Borders Council initiated discussions on a possbile hydrogen plant; the council counter-claiming that it was Enertrag who first brought up the idea.

After last week’s Berwickshire News story on discussions between Enertrag and SBC planners about a hybrid wind and hydrogen plant, Enertrag responded by reiterating their position that they have no such plans.

Emails obtained through a Freedom of Information request show an Enertrag representative contacting planners to “confirm which planning process the project would fall under should it include a green hydrogen plant as we discussed last week”. And council planners respond saying “the proposal for a green hydrogen plant would be a very interesting idea to explore further”.

Enertrag now say: “Enertrag met representatives of Scottish Borders Council in mid June to introduce the Blackmains wind farm proposal to the new planning officer responsible for the area based on a provisional enquiry form submitted to the council in relation to the site. This form makes no reference to hydrogen production as part of the site’s potential future development.

“At the meeting, council officials initiated discussions about hydrogen on the back of a presentation Enertrag had previously made to the Borders Energy Agency concerning the company’s experience of developing a hydrogen production plant in Germany. Council officials indicated that, should Enertrag consider including a proposal for a hydrogen production plant on the Blackmains wind farm site, this could entail a different planning application process.

“Enertrag sought clarification on this point and undertook, at the council’s request, to consider the viability of hydrogen production as part of the Blackmains wind farm proposal. However, Enertrag rapidly concluded that inclusion of such a plant would not be financially viable in the current circumstances and discussions never progressed beyond this stage.”

Updating their role in the saga, an SBC statement reads: “We can confirm that planning officials did not “instigate discussions” on a hydrogen plant. This matter was raised by Enertrag with two planning officers at a meeting that had been arranged to discuss the company’s wind farm proposal.”

An Ayton resident and member of the Oppose Blackmains group told the Berwickshire News this week: “If the proliferation of wind turbines into the lowland Borders - and nearer homes - wasn’t such an important issue for us and so many others in the area, this behaviour is so ridiculous it would almost be funny.

“It is important to find out what is really going on. There is clear interest on both sides, even encouragement from SBC.

“You may also ask why safety was apparently not considered in discussions between SBC and Enertrag, given its essential importance in the production, tranport and storage of hydrogen, a potentially highly explosive chemical.

“Whatever the perceived merits of wind energy and hydrogen fuel might be, the beautiful open landscapes and villages of the eastern Scottish Borders are no place for giant wind turbines or hydrogen production facilities.”