Hi-tech training academy aims to be up and running ‘early next year’ in Ballymena area

A TRAINING Academy in the field of hydrogen – a technology being used in buses being built by Bamford Bus Company at Galgorm – has a target date of ‘early next year’ for the delivery of its first course.

A report prepared for councillors at a meeting in Ballymena this week said: ‘Progress continues on establishing a Hydrogen Training Academy in Ballymena with a successful meeting held with DfE Energy and Skills Branches on 2 November 2020 and further detail being provided to them to progress the funding application.

‘An application for funding support from Gallaher Trust is being prepared and negotiaions are ongoing with DfI regarding support for the capital equipment costs for the project and with Wrightbus regarding the site location for the pilot academy.

‘Target date for delivery of the first training course is early 2021,’ said the report.

Recently, during a visit to the Ballymena area, Economy Minister Diane Dodds said the time is right for Northern Ireland to explore the development of a local hydrogen economy.


Speaking after meeting with some of Northern Ireland’s leading players in the hydrogen sector, the Minister had said hydrogen will create the opportunity for new sustainable jobs that in turn will underpin zero carbon economic growth.

She said: “Northern Ireland has the potential to develop an enviable reputation in the global hydrogen economy with our indigenous wind resources and local talent with a proven track record in innovation.”

The Minister met Jo Bamford (owner) and Buta Atwal (CEO) of Galgorm-based Bamford Bus (formerly Wrightbus), Jon Duffy (CEO) and Joe Scott (founder) of Clean Power Hydrogen (CPH2), Mark Welsh, Energy Services Manager, Energia, and David Surplus, CEO, B9 Energy Storage.

Bamford Bus is delivering new buses to Translink with hydrogen-fuel cells powered by green hydrogen produced from a local Energia wind farm.

Forecasts indicate that future growth in demand for hydrogen-fueled buses and other hydrogen-fueled transport will grow rapidly, according to experts.

Electrolysers are central to all green hydrogen projects and a new joint venture between CPH2 and B9 Energy plans to manufacture a patented ‘membrane free’ version in Northern Ireland for worldwide distribution.

Electrolysis utilising the valuable wind resource, especially at times of the day when there is lower electricity demand, produces oxygen which is valuable, for example, for NI Water in its waste water treatment plants, and green hydrogen which can be a valuable zero carbon energy resource for transport now, and eventually for heating.

Minister Dodds said: “Northern Ireland has a valuable indigenous source of energy – wind. We are a market leader in renewable electricity generation – 48% of the electricity we generated over the past year was from renewable sources.

“We lead the way in engineering solutions to get as much of this wind generation as possible onto our electricity network. In both cases we are doing better than anywhere else in the world. The opportunity is there for us to take.

“With the global demand for electrolysers set to soar, my vision is that we will create the world’s largest manufacturing base for electrolysers.

“This will leverage Northern Ireland’s expertise in advanced materials handling and engineering and create hundreds of direct sustainable jobs, with thousands in the supply chain. It will provide a lasting legacy from the challenge of taming climate change.”

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