The University of Strathclyde is to support Shetland to become an international clean energy hub under ambitious plans that will also see major oil and gas fields become net zero by 2030.

Strathclyde has joined Project ORION (Opportunity Renewables Integration Offshore Networks) which will see onshore and offshore wind energy harnessed to power platforms and produce green hydrogen at scale. Wind and hydrogen will also be used to power the Islands’ homes and businesses, replacing fossil fuels by providing affordable renewable energy.

ORION would also see port facilities, including Sullom Voe, powered by wind energy and redeveloped to support the offshore wind sector and for the export of green hydrogen to the UK mainland and Europe.

Net Zero

A three-year Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with Shetland Islands Council (SIC) and Strathclyde joins OGTC and Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE) as Strategic Partners in the project.

The project will take advantage of Strathclyde’s ability to draw expertise from across multiple disciplines but particularly from the Engineering Faculty where a range of expertise is available from specialist power and energy groups.

Contributions to Energy Integration will initially come from the Institute for Energy and Environment (InstEE), Power Networks Distribution Centre (PNDC), Energy Systems Research Unit (ESRU), and, Naval Architecture, Ocean and Marine Engineering (NAOME).

Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Principal of the University of Strathclyde, said: “Project ORION will completely transform how energy is produced, transported and consumed on Shetland and utilise the skills and experience of the highly skilled workforce to sustain thousands of oil & gas sector jobs and create hundreds of new onshore jobs. Importantly, Project ORION will take a systems engineering approach to the technological interdependencies vital to achieving Net Zero.

”We are delighted to become partners in Project ORION and look forward to channel our internationally-leading research to help drive this important partnership forward.”

Councillor Steven Coutts, Leader, Shetland Islands Council, said: “Shetland Islands Council is very pleased to welcome the University of Strathclyde into the ORION project as a working partner. The University of Strathclyde is a national academic leader in clean energy engineering with an exceptional track record in advanced electricity systems and marine focused renewable solutions.

“Their skills base is completely aligned with the ORION project and the University is best placed to act as a technical lead for many of the engineering research work packages required for the ORION project. This new arrangement is highly significant for supporting Shetland’s transition to net-zero carbon emissions, retaining sustainable energy employment in the isles and for the Council to implement effective Climate Change solutions in its own operations.”

New jobs

Gunther Newcombe, Project ORION Coordinator, said: “The ORION project is a fantastic example of how a council like Shetland can work collaboratively with industry and academia to transform the local economy to renewable energy and develop business opportunities at industrial scale to create sustainable new jobs for the future.”

Colette Cohen, CEO of OGTC said: “OGTC welcome The University of Strathclyde as a partner in Project ORION. Their expertise will complement feasibility research currently underway, as well as future technology testing and trials, progressing the delivery of an integrated renewable energy solution for the North of Scotland.”

Audrey MacIver, director of energy and low carbon at HIE, said: “The complexity and scale of the opportunity facing Shetland, and the rest of the Highlands and Islands, in transforming our energy system requires collective effort from academia, industry and government.

“We very much welcome the insight and expertise that will come from the University of Strathclyde, building on the broader academic base already present in the Highlands and Islands within the region, and the strong industry commitment towards realising a net zero future for our region. ORION represents a fantastic opportunity to safeguard existing jobs and create new ones in the energy transition. It will also help address the high levels of fuel poverty experienced throughout our communities, and create a blueprint for other regions.”