HS2 hydrogen solar power cabins

HS2: World’s first solar and hydrogen powered cabins cuts carbon

HS2 solar and hydrogen powered cabin

HS2 has trialled solar and hydrogen powered welfare cabins across its work locations in a step towards greener construction sites.

The cabins are run by enabling and main works civils joint ventures CSjv (Costain, Skanska) and SCSjv (Skanska Costain STRABAG) in Camden, West Ruislip and Uxbridge.

The EasyCabin EcoSmart ZERO product is the world’s first solar and hydrogen powered welfare unit, combining solar and hydrogen power to eliminate carbon emissions from construction sites, and is set to be rolled out further across the HS2 project.

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Data gathered from 16 Ecosmart ZERO cabins over a 21 week period on HS2 sites in Camden, Ruislip and Uxbridge showed that 112 tonnes of carbon were saved – the equivalent of what would be absorbed by over 3,367 trees over a whole year. In comparison, a standard diesel generator running would have used 40,000 litres of diesel fuel.

HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson visited HS2’s construction site at West Ruislip to see the solar cabins.

Mr Stephenson said: “As we build back better from Covid-19, it is great to see how HS2 Ltd is using first class solar and hydrogen powered staff welfare pods to cut carbon emissions while supporting workers on its construction sites.

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“Not only are these British-made pods supporting hundreds of jobs, but it is a great example of how HS2 is realising our ambition to be one of the most environmentally-responsible projects ever delivered in the UK, as we transition to carbon net zero by 2050.”

Commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050

The hydrogen technology has been developed by scientists at Loughborough University. With zero emissions, solar and hydrogen power replaces traditional diesel power systems and reduces the overall carbon footprint of a construction site, and more importantly, improves the environment for communities in the vicinity of operation. The unit is near silent, and emits only pure water vapour.

The cabins provide a kitchen, seating area, separate toilet and changing room for workers, with the power to run the heating, sockets, kettle and microwave coming instantly from the battery bank which is constantly fed by the built-in hydrogen fuel cell and solar panels.

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GAP Group and AJC are part of the wider HS2 supply chain which includes over 2,000 companies – 99% based in the UK, creating thousands of jobs for British people. GAP Group has experienced significant growth in recent years, enabling the company to offer a wide range of career opportunities, along with apprenticeship and graduate schemes, and local partnership networks including educational, employability and government initiatives such as ‘Developing the Young Workforce’.

AJC Trailers Limited has been manufacturing trailers in the UK since 1964. For the past eighteen years, the company has focused their activities on designing and producing hybrid, sustainable welfare and power solutions for the construction sector under the EasyCabin brand. AJC Trailers Ltd employs 60 people in its manufacturing facility in Luton, Bedfordshire. 

GAP Group have other award winning AJC products on their hire fleet, which are also currently being used to cut emissions on HS2 sites. These include the Solar Pod – a hybrid solar generator to supply remote sites with sustainable power, and the SolarLight ZERO – a highly efficient and powerful LED lighting tower, powered only by solar panels.

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HS2’s Environment Director Peter Miller said: “HS2 is supporting the UK’s green economic recovery and ensuring the UK is on track to achieve its commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.  We aim to dramatically cut carbon on our construction sites, and constantly challenge our supply chain to introduce innovations by using the latest green technology.

“With over 250 active work sites between London and Birmingham, we have a huge opportunity to roll out British-made products such as this solar powered cabin, to dramatically reduce the project’s carbon footprint, bringing environmental benefits to local communities as we build the railway.”

Douglas Anderson, Joint Managing Director at GAP Group said: “With an increased focus on the reduction of carbon footprint on projects like HS2, there is a real demand for industries to adopt cleaner fuels whilst maintaining reliability and cost effectiveness. Hydrogen and fuel cell technology have the potential to provide solutions to the UK’s most critical energy challenges – enabling growth while improving quality of life and minimising environmental impacts. As a leading innovator in the hire sector GAP want to be at the forefront of these advances.”

 Jav Samsa, Managing Director at AJC EasyCabin said: “As a result of winning multiple Green Apple awards, we have developed site welfare solutions that produce zero emissions at point of use. We have designed, built and tested, with the support of GAP Group, this new ‘Patent Pending’ concept, ready for the demands of future CO2 reduction targets. We are proud that our products are recognised and are part of the HS2 project.”

Lee Davies, Board Member at Costain Skanska Joint Venture (CSjv) and Skanska Costain STRABAG joint venture (SCSjv) said: “Working closely with our supply chain, we have identified many ways to maximise our environmental outcomes, leading to several thousand tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) saved to date. We have focused on identifying innovations and efficiencies throughout our whole programme, from our power supplies and fuel sources through to working methodology by reducing and recycling materials.

“Adopting these solar and hydrogen powered cabins will help us deliver our target of reducing our carbon footprint by 50%.”

Hydrogen systems are as safe, if not safer, than conventional fuel systems, including gasoline and natural gas. One of the huge benefits of hydrogen is its versatility – it can be produced from any primary energy source which makes it limitless in terms of availability. 

Technologies are being developed to increase the share of renewably produced hydrogen, with the long-term aim is to significantly increase the sustainable share in the hydrogen mix using renewable energy sources such as wind, water and biomass. At present, electrolysis of water using wind, water or solar power and reforming of biogas are viable alternatives that offer a zero-emission hydrogen energy cycle.

Hydrogen has been used as an industrial gas for decades, which means methods to safely and efficiently produce, distribute, store and use hydrogen are mature. Fuel cell vehicles meet the strictest safety and quality standards set by the United Nations Global Technical Regulations (GTR).

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Sam Hewitt

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