A PIONEERING scheme in Middlewich to fuel bin lorries with hydrogen could soon help residents breathe cleaner air.

The Guardian revealed last November that emissions from the fleet belonging to Ansa, the Cheshire East Council-owned waste management company, had soared since it relocated to Cledford Lane two years ago.

But the council – which hopes to be carbon-free by 2025 – has now secured funding towards a £1 million scheme that will see the Cledford Lane depot become home to the north west’s first green hydrogen fuelling facility.

It means Ansa will produce its own hydrogen fuel on-site to use on lorries which have been converted for it – with the clean energy source only emitting water from the tailpipe.

Cllr Jonathan Parry, Labour CEC member for Middlewich, said: “In my eyes it sounds like a really good scheme because it is clean energy.

Winsford Guardian:

“I am going to back it 100 per cent because the air quality in Middlewich is absolutely shocking, we need to cut down on harmful pollution.

“We have got air quality management areas in Middlewich but it has not been brought down, so at least this is Ansa doing a positive thing.”

Parts of Chester Road and Lewin Street are classed as air quality management areas by the council.

It means that levels of the harmful nitrous dioxide gas – emitted by diesel-powered vehicles – have breached target levels, and CEC has committed to improving air quality in those areas.

Working with King Street-based renewable energy firm Storengy, the council says that the hydrogen will be produced in the greenest way possible – using an electrolyser connected to solar panels and grey-water recycling.

This will provide safe, clean hydrogen fuel, which will be pumped into dual-fuel bin wagons.

Two council-owned bin lorries will be converted at first, along with one Storengy vehicle, reducing diesel use by more than 10,000 litres a year.

“This scheme is an exciting step towards the council becoming carbon neutral by 2025,” added Cllr Nick Mannion, cabinet member for environment and regeneration at CEC.

Winsford Guardian:

“Building a cleaner, greener economy will not only reduce carbon but also create jobs across the borough through new and innovative technologies, such as hydrogen.

“Hydrogen is ideal as an alternative to diesel for our refuse vehicles.

“These wagons have heavy schedules when delivering their services across the borough and this type of refuelling will ensure they have the cleaner power they need when emptying our residents’ bins.”

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The scheme has been funded by both public and private sector investment – including £345,000 from the local enterprise partnership’s Local Growth Fund.

CEC hopes to have the facility up and running in the autumn, subject to planning permission.