您现在的位置: 纽约时报中英文网 >> 纽约时报中英文版 >> 科学 >> 正文

清洁能源:改变苏格兰小岛的绿能发电

更新时间:2019/5/25 8:30:25 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

How hydrogen is transforming these tiny Scottish islands
清洁能源:改变苏格兰小岛的绿能发电

I’ve seen thousands of petrol pumps in my life, but this is my first encounter with a hydrogen refuelling station. It sits by the road in the Orkney Islands, an archipelago off the north-east coast of Scotland where residents have big dreams: they want to have their cars, ferries and boilers all running on hydrogen.

我一辈子见过许许多多的加油站,但这还是我第一次见到一个加氢气站。它坐落在苏格兰东北海岸的奥克尼群岛(Orkney Islands)的路边。这里的居民有着远大的梦想:他们希望自己的汽车、渡轮、锅炉最终全都能够靠氢能驱动。

As we approach the station, its normality is striking. There are no attendants in full-body hazmat suits, no sci-fi loud bangs, no bright neon signs. Just your average dispenser waiting to be used.

当我们开车靠近这个加氢站,其普通不过的外观令人惊讶。这里没有全身穿着危险品制服的工作人员,没有科幻小说里那种巨大的响声,没有鲜艳的霓虹灯。只有普通的加氢装置在那里等着大家使用。

But Adele Lidderdale, a hydrogen project officer at the Orkney Islands Council, is a little nervous: one of her van’s sensors has been malfunctioning lately, she says, and might not accept fuel from the nozzle. Now, she plugs the nozzle into her van and steps back to the screen at the other end of the black hose. She looks relieved as the charging process starts with a hydraulic mumble from within the dispenser.

但奥克尼群岛行政区一个氢能项目的主管里德戴尔(Adele Lidderdale)则有一些紧张。她表示,自己一辆面包车的传感器最近出了点问题,可能无法从喷嘴加氢。现在,她把喷嘴对准面包车加氢的位置插好,然后退回到黑色软管另一端的屏幕边。喷嘴处传出了一声水力的低响,开始了加氢流程,她看上去缓了一口气。

Three minutes later, the 1.4kg tank full, we drive off – all without using one single drop of petrol.

3分钟后,1.4公斤的气缸加满了燃料,我们绝尘而去,一滴汽油都没有用上。

Since Orkney started planning its hydrogen-based economy in 2016, the process hasn’t always been this smooth. When five vans, including this one, arrived in 2017, the islands didn’t have hydrogen for them, as production was still not underway. After managing to charge the tanks, the planners encountered another potential issue: who can fix a broken hydrogen vehicle in a community of 21,000 people?

奥克尼群岛自2016年就开始规划其建基于氢能的经济模式,但事情进展并非一直这么顺利。奥克尼群岛2017年进口了包括这辆车在内的5辆氢能面包车时,并没有氢能可供使用,因为氢能的生产尚未开始。在终于能够给面包车充满氢能后,规划者又要面对另一个潜在问题:在这个只有2.1万居民的群岛,谁能修好一辆坏了的氢能汽车呢?

In response to the challenges, the Orcadians flew in an expert to train a local mechanic, created fresh educational programmes for ferry operators and drafted regulations to update maritime law to allow hydrogen use in vessels. And they aren’t stopping there. If everything goes according to plan, by 2021 the islands will have the world’s first sea-going car-and-passenger ferry fuelled only by hydrogen.

为了应对这些挑战,奥克尼群岛请来了一位专家培训当地技工,为轮渡运营者设立全新的教育课程,并起草规定、更新海事法规,允许船只使用氢能源。如果一切按照计划进行,到2021年时,这个群岛将会拥有全世界首个只用氢能驱动的载运汽车和乘客的海运轮渡。

The archipelago might seem an unlikely place for such cutting-edge aspirations. But if it can succeed, it may inspire other communities to move away from fossil fuels too. As Lidderdale says: “If we can dream that you can run a ship on hydrogen, there’s no reason others won’t follow.”

奥克尼群岛看起来不像是一个有着如此超前科技的地方,不过一旦成功,就可能鼓舞其它地区也逐渐取缔化石燃料而采用氢能。就像里德戴尔所说:“如果连我们都可以用氢能开船,没有理由其他人不会效仿。”

Clean energy

清洁能源

Unlike petrol or marine diesel, burning hydrogen does not, in itself, produce any harmful by-products. Now, as we drive through Orkney’s capital of Kirkwall, hydrogen combines with oxygen inside the van to produce an electrical reaction that powers the engine. The only tailgate emission is pure water. In other words, there’s no air pollution and no greenhouse gas emissions (such as carbon dioxide) that contribute to global warming. Beyond cars, hydrogen could be used to heat buildings, power electrical facilities, propel trains, ferries and cargo ships and for industrial processes.

与汽油或者海运柴油不同,燃烧氢气这一过程本身并不会产生任何的有害副产物。此时,就在我们开车穿过奥克尼群岛的首府柯克沃尔(Kirkwall),氢气正与车里的氧气结合生成电力,进而驱动汽车引擎。唯一排放出的尾气就是纯水。换句话说,这并不会污染空气,也并不会排放造成全球变暖的(二氧化碳等)温室气体。氢能除了能驱动汽车,还能为建筑供暖,生产电力,为火车、轮渡、货船的运行提供驱动能源,并能够用于工业生产。

Another benefit of hydrogen? If you have too much, you can store and transport it at a large scale with relative ease. As one Bloomberg New Energy Finance consultant wrote in a column published last year, hydrogen “is one of the most promising ways of dealing with longer-term storage, beyond the minutes, hours or days that could be met by batteries”.

氢能的另一个好处是?如果你有太多的氢能,可以储存起来,并用相对较简单的方法进行大容量运输。就像彭博新能源金融(Bloomberg New Energy Finance)顾问在去年的一篇专栏文章里写的那样,氢“是世界上最具有前景的能长期储存的能量之一,其储存时间超越了电池以分钟、小时或天数计的存储时限。”

But producing hydrogen is complicated. Even though it is the most abundant chemical substance in the universe, very little of it is freely available as a gas, instead forming strong bonds with other elements (for instance with oxygen to create water). You need to break up those links to “free” it for use. That process requires a great deal of electricity – electricity which may not come from “clean” sources itself, and that could be used for other purposes, for instance powering electric vehicles to begin with.

但生产氢的过程相当复杂。虽然氢是宇宙中含量最多的化学元素,但只有极少的一部分以气体的形式存在,可供使用。氢更多是与其他元素紧密结合,例如与氧结合形成水。人们需要打破这些化学键才能“释放”氢能。这一过程需要大量电能,而电能未必来自“清洁”的来源。此外,电能本身就可以作其它用途,为电动汽车提供能量就是一个例子。

A cheaper way to produce hydrogen, meanwhile, involves using methane and carbon capture and storage (CCS). Some experts argue it might make more sense at scale, but might not be as clean. However, research published in February 2019 suggests that hydrogen produced using renewable electricity might be cost competitive and might match CCS within a decade.

与此同时,一个成本较低的方法则是运用甲烷以及碳捕捉和储存方式(CCS)制氢。有的专家认为,用这种方法进行规模化制氢较为可行,但未必清洁。然而,2019年2月的研究表明,运用可再生电能制氢也可能具有价格优势,而且可能在10年内达到碳捕捉和储存方法的水准。

But for Orkney, hydrogen via electricity works just fine. The islands already boast one of the highest densities of electric vehicles in the United Kingdom. And most crucially, thanks to sources like tidal and wave energy, Orkney creates more clean electricity that its inhabitants need. Even after exporting to the UK national grid, the islands’ winds, waves and tides generate about 130% of the electricity its population needs – all of it from clean sources.

但对奥克尼群岛而言,通过电能生产氢能效果很好。奥克尼群岛号称是英国电动车密度最高的地区之一。而且更重要的是,由于利用了潮汐和海浪产生能源,当地生产的清洁电能比居民所需的还要多。即便向英国国家电网输出电能后,岛上的风能、潮汐能、海浪能产生的电仍是居民用电量的130%左右,而且全都是清洁能源。

As electricity is hard to store at a large scale (we still don’t have humongous batteries for whole communities), some wind turbines must switch off on occasions to avoid damaging the power lines to the UK mainland, which can’t be updated cheaply.

由于电能很难进行大规模储存(人类还无法制造出足够整个群岛社区使用的巨型电池),一些潮汐发电机和风力发电机必须时不时关闭,以免损坏连接英国本岛地区电网的输电线。要更新修复这些输电线是非常昂贵的。

This curtailment annoys the Orcadians and it is also expensive for the communities that invest their in clean energy. They would rather keep the turbines moving or, alternatively, find a way to use them. So residents came up with an idea: what if we use surplus clean energy to produce hydrogen?

限制潮汐和风力发电机的发电惹怒了奥克尼群岛的岛民,而且奥克尼群岛对清洁能源的投资非常昂贵。岛民宁愿一直把发电机开着,或者寻找一个方法用掉多余的能源。因此,当地居民产生如此之想:我们能不能用多余的清洁能源来生产氢呢?

Producing hydrogen

生产氢气

The hydrogen that Lidderdale pumped into the trunk-sized tank sitting behind our backs comes from a long, thin island called Eday, where about 130 people live.

里德戴尔加到我们车尾气箱里的氢气来自约有130名居民狭长的伊代岛(Eday)。

Eday had too much clean energy and no way to use it. The island’s population had invested in a community-owned wind turbine in 2012, hoping to sell electricity back into the UK national grid and profit from the green energy revolution. But later that year, the grid operator announced that too many new turbines had sprung up in northern Scotland and that they couldn’t take all the clean energy produced, says James Stockan, Leader of Orkney Islands Council. The island is also where the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), the leading global institution for tidal energy, tries new tidal turbines in the rough Scottish waters.

伊代岛的清洁能源多得用不过来。岛上的居民在2012年投资兴建了一个风力发电场,由整个社区共有。他们希望能将多余的电力卖给英国国家电网,进而从绿色能源革命中获益。奥克尼行政区领导斯多肯(James Stockan)表示,就在同一年的晚些时候,国家电网管理者就提出,苏格兰北部已经涌现了太多新的风力发电机,因此不能接受伊代岛生产的全部清洁能源。欧盟海洋能源中心(EMEC)是全球领先的潮汐能源研究机构,他们正在伊代岛所在的海浪汹涌的苏格兰海域测试新的潮汐力发电机。

With two reliable sources of clean energy, the island became an ideal place to start producing hydrogen.

有了这两大可靠的清洁能源,伊代岛就成为了生产氢能的理想场所。

But before anything else, the Orcadians wanted to know if they could produce it in the first place.

但在开始行动之前,奥克尼群岛的居民想要知道,到底能不能生产出氢气。

In September 2017, after research aided by a £1.4 million grant from the Scottish government, they had their answer. Inside a green trailer-sized container, they ran electricity through water to split the molecules into hydrogen and oxygen in a process called electrolysis. The oxygen was harmlessly released back into the atmosphere; the hydrogen was carefully compressed and stored into cylinders. The cylinders first were used for a humble enough application: they were converted into electricity on a fuel-cell at Kirkwall harbour, with the result of powering lights on some of the harbour’s vessels as well as heating a nearby sailor hall.

他们在苏格兰政府的140万英镑资助下进行了研究,并于2017年9月找到了答案。在一个拖车大小的绿色容器里,他们利用电解的方法,即将电流通过水、将水分子分解为氢原子和氧原子。氧气被释放到大气中,完全无害;而氢气则经过小心的压缩,储存在圆柱形罐子里。这些氢气最初的用途非常简单:转化为柯克沃尔港口某个燃料电池里的电能,进而为港口的一些船只的灯供电,以及为附近的一个海员会堂供暖。

It was the proof that if you have too much wind on Friday, you can create hydrogen with it and then use it to switch on your lights, heat a room or power your car on Sunday.

这就是证据:如果星期五的风太大,就可以借此生产氢气,然后用来为你的电灯供能,为房间供暖,或者星期天给汽车充电。

After that, new projects started coming in fast. A second electrolysis station was installed on the island of Shapinsay, as well as a boiler for a school and blueprints to create a hybrid ferry. In the meantime, there were several charging stations and five retrofitted vans were running on hydrogen. But there were even bigger goals ahead.

此后,新的项目就很快开始落地。第二个电解水站在沙平赛岛(Shapinsay)建成,此外还建了一个供学校使用的锅炉。人们还计划造一个混合动力轮渡。与此同时,还有5辆改造过的氢能汽车,以及几个加氢站。但未来的计划甚至更加宏大。

Oil in the seas

海中石油

As our ferry left the harbour, the engine growled with diesel and pistons. No-one on board seemed to mind. The dozen or so passengers on the Kirkwall-Shapinsay service remained undisturbed, chatting among themselves or browsing their phones. Our quiet acceptance of that metallic uproar every time an engine kicks off is startling: have we normalised sound pollution?

我们的轮渡离开港口时,船上的引擎发出柴油和活塞作用的轰隆巨响。船上的乘客看起来已经习以为常。搭乘柯克沃尔和沙平赛之间穿梭轮渡的这十几二十个游客看起来并不受噪音干扰,他们互相聊天或者看着自己的手机。我们如此平静地接受了每次引擎启动时的金属咆哮声,实在让人震惊:我们是否已经将声音污染视为正常的事件了呢?

I initially came to Orkney because of this vessel. Companies and governments around the world are contemplating hydrogen as a way to clean up the polluting marine shipping industry, which is responsible for more than 2% of all global emissions of carbon dioxide. When I asked a specialist at the European Climate Foundation about the clean shipping frontier, he told me to visit Orkney.

我最初来到奥克尼就是因为这艘船。全世界的企业和政府都在考虑用氢气结束海运行业的污染。海运行业的碳排放量占全球的2%以上。我问欧洲气候基金会(European Climate Foundation)的一名专家,清洁海运的前沿在哪里,他让我来奥克尼群岛看看。

As an archipelago of scattered isles, the Orkney Islands depend on their ferry system. Medics, goods, teachers and family members hop daily between the harbours, allowing a sense of community to exist. But the ferries also consume about one-third of Orkney’s fossil fuels, hampering the islands’ ambition to become a greener place. “If you’re looking at how to decarbonise the maritime sector, this is one great way to do it,” says John Clipsham, hydrogen manager at EMEC.

奥克尼群岛的诸小岛在海中星罗棋布,因此非常依赖他们的轮渡系统。医护人员、商品、教师、家庭成员每天都在各个港口之间穿梭不息,形成了这个群岛共处一个社区的意识。但这些轮渡消耗的化石燃料占了奥克尼群岛能量总消耗量的约三分之一,大大阻碍了群岛想成为绿色环保之岛的雄心壮志。欧洲海洋能源中心的氢能源经理克里斯汉姆(John Clipsham)表示:“如果你正在寻找减少海事领域的碳排放的方法,这就是一个很好的解决方案。”

The island of Shapinsay, where we are heading, is home to just over 300 inhabitants, dramatic coasts and rolling hills. Next to the pier, Steve Bews, the chairman of the Shapinsay Development Community Trust, waits for me on a white petrol-powered van. We drive through the hilly countryside and up to the wind turbine that sits atop a slope. Built in 2012, the community-owned turbine has created enough income to provide educational grants, an electric taxi for community errands (there are no taxis on the island) and a subsidy for an extra ferry ride to Kirkwall every evening. But it’s also curtailed, limiting its profitability; Bews says that 36% of its potential was going to waste.

我们前往的沙平赛岛居民人数仅仅300出头,这个海岛有着蜿蜒的海岸线和险峻的群山。沙平赛发展社区信托基金(Shapinsay Development Community Trust)的主席布尔斯(Steve Bews)在码头边的一辆白色汽油车上等着我。我们驱车通过山峦起伏的乡野,到达一个斜坡顶上的风力发电机旁。这个发电机建于2012年,由整个社区共同拥有,创造的收入能为当地人补贴教育经费,提供一辆专为社区事务使用的电动出租车(沙平赛岛上没有出租车)以及资助增设晚间前往主岛柯克沃尔的一班轮渡。但这个风力发电机的发电量受到人为限制,因而也限制到其盈利的能力。布尔斯表示,36%的可发电潜力都被浪费了。

When several organisations approached them some years ago looking for their surplus electricity to produce hydrogen in Shapinsay, the trust agreed. “We’ve got loads of electricity, it’s green and it made sense,” says Bews, who’s a builder by trade and volunteers at the community organisation.

几年前,几个组织找到基金会,希望在沙平赛利用多余的电力生产氢气时,基金会同意了。布尔斯是建筑业从业者,也在社区组织做义工。他表示:“我们有很多电力,都是绿色能源,而且这么做确实有意义。”

The electrolysis station was under construction in December 2018 and should be ready in early 2019. It will be able to produce 500 kg of hydrogen a day, roughly the daily demand of the Kirkwall-Shapinsay service if it becomes operational. The people in Shapinsay get to sell their surplus electricity and they get cheaper heating for their children: a catalytic hydrogen boiler next to the local school waits for fuel to heat its classrooms.

电解站于2018年12月开工,预计将于2019年早期完工,每天将可以生产500公斤的氢气。如果全面投入运行,这大约是科克沃尔和沙平赛之间的轮渡每天所需的电能。到时沙平赛居民可以将富余的电力出售,并且能够为自己的子女提供成本更低的供暖设施,本地学校附近的氢能锅炉正等待着获得能源给教室供暖。

A while later, Bews drops me off again by the pier. Once onboard, the ferry leaves Shapinsay with its metallic song of 20th Century transportation. I wonder if its days are counted.

过了一会儿,布尔斯再次把我送回码头。人们上船后,轮渡就继续伴着20世纪交通工具的金属歌声离开了沙平赛。我在想,20世纪交通轮渡的时日是否已屈指可数。

The journey ahead

未来的旅程

Even if marine diesel days have an expiration date, don’t hold your breath. Orkney’s plan is a prototype. The rest of the world following will take years or decades.

即使终有一天,海运柴油时代将会寿归正寝,但也不用屏住呼吸等待这个日子的到来。奥克尼群岛的规划是一个原型,全世界其他地区要效仿则要花上几年、几十年的岁月。

Still, first steps are promising. Work on the ferry project is already underway at Port Glasgow, where the partnering shipyard Ferguson Marine is based. Meanwhile, a Californian project called Water-Go-Round promises to have a functioning hydrogen ferry later this year, a joint Norwegian-Swedish programme is exploring how fuel-cell technology can move larger vessels and a Japanese shipping giant announced plans for a 200m-long zero emissions cargo ship by 2050. On the policy level, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) agreed in April 2018 to reduce the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. Countries gathered in IMO’s London headquarters promised to reduce their footprint by 50% by 2050, compared to 2008 levels.

不过,起步工作看起来相当不错。轮渡项目的工作已经开始在合作的弗格森造船厂(Ferguson Marine)所在的格拉斯哥港开展。与此同时,美国加州一个名为Water-Go-Round的项目也预计将在今年晚些时候造出氢动力轮渡,挪威瑞典合作的一个项目在探索如何使用燃料电池技术驱动船只,而日本航运巨头也宣布,计划在2050年造出一只200米长零排放的货运船。而在政策层面,国际海事组织(IMO)则在2018年4月达成一致决定,减少海事领域的温室气体排放。聚在国际海事组织伦敦总部的各国代表承诺,到2050年将温室气体的排放足迹减少50%(与2008年水平相比)。

It’s a big shift for any community to make. From the house I stayed at in Stromness, Orkney’s second most populous town, I could see Flotta, a small island known for its oil terminal. At one point, it had the second largest oil terminal serving the UK’s North Sea.

这对任何一个社区而言,都是巨大的改变。我在奥克尼群岛人口数量排名第二的小镇斯特罗姆内斯(Stromness),于我所住的房子里可以看到建有油库的小岛弗洛塔(Flotta)。这个小岛曾经是服务英国北海地区的第二大油库。

Compared to the island’s optimism about clean energy, the terminal felt like an ominous presence – both a relic from the past and a reminder of how intertwined fossil fuels are with our current social fabric.

与海岛对清洁能源的乐观积极态度相比,这个油库看起来像一个不祥的存在,既是过去的遗迹,也提醒着人们化石燃料与我们当今社会的错综复杂的联系。

Caron Oag, EMEC’s hydrogen marketing officer, told me her dad worked for the oil terminal for years. It’s a story that’s heard all over the islands. “A lot of people of my generation grew up in households where the oil industry was their income,” said Oag. Like many young Orcadians, she felt her homeland offered few professional pathways and moved abroad to work and study.

欧洲海洋能源中心的氢能营销官奥格(Caron Oag)告诉我,她的父亲曾在弗洛塔油库工作多年。这样的故事在岛上非常常见。奥格说:“许多我们这一代人都生长在靠石油领域获得收入的家庭。”她和许多年轻的奥克尼群岛居民一样,觉得自己的家乡能提供的职业发展非常有限,因此会离乡别井到其他地方工作和学习。

But that has changed. The clean energy industry is now providing Orkney’s youth with new options beyond farming and fossil fuels. “My job is a good example of how we are creating new opportunities,” says the council’s Lidderdale, who worked for EMEC between 2012 and 2016.

但情况发生了改变。清洁能源行业现正为奥克尼群岛的年轻人提供农业和化石燃料行业之外的新机会。在市政工作的里德戴尔曾在2012年至2016年间在欧洲海洋能源中心任职,她表示:“我们正在创造新的工作机会,而我自己的工作就是个很好的例子。”

Many people in Orkney seem proud of the sophistication of their technologies. But they seem even prouder of the ability to do exactly this – provide quality jobs for their young professionals. The industry’s potential even is drawing in people like EMEC’s Clipsham, who relocated here from Germany.

许多奥克尼群岛的居民都对他们先进的能源技术感到自豪。但他们似乎更自豪于另一个能力,为年轻的专业人员提供高质量工作岗位的能力。该行业的潜力甚至吸引了像欧洲海洋能源中心的克里斯汉姆这样从德国移居至此的人士。

Maybe Orkney can provide a roadmap for other small communities that are loosely connected to national or regional capitals. Maybe the transition away from fossil fuels opens a window of opportunity for these regions.

或许奥克尼可以为远离国家首都或地区首府的小型群落指明一个方向。或许逐渐从化石燃料转化为干净能源,就能为这些偏远地区开启一扇机会的窗户。

“There are thousands of islands in the world,” says council leader Stockan. He dreams about a carbon-free world where islands take the lead, instead of being an afterthought for policymakers.

奥克尼行政区领导斯多肯说:“全世界有几千个岛屿。”他的梦想就是全世界在岛屿的带领下达成零碳排放,而不是靠政策制定者后知后觉的想法。

“We have got an exportable commodity (with hydrogen) we can share with them, so that islands don’t get something last – but they can get something first.”

“(有了氢气)我们就有了可以与全世界共享的出口商品。岛屿再也不是最后一个获得某样东西的地方了,反而是捷足先登的第一个。”

“全文请访问纽约时报中文网,本文发表于纽约时报中文网(http://cn.nytimes.com),版权归纽约时报公司所有。任何单位及个人未经许可,不得擅自转载或翻译。订阅纽约时报中文网新闻电邮:http://nytcn.me/subscription/”

相关文章列表