Wrightbus plans to develop a green hydrogen production facility at its Ballymena plant.
The proposal is being made in collaboration with a sister company, Hygen Energy.
Part of the Wrightbus business is the production of hydrogen-powered buses, some of which are operated by Translink.
The new facility would help create a reliable source of fuel for those buses and other hydrogen-powered vehicles.
Jo Bamford, Chairman of Wrightbus, said: “Hydrogen is the best way to decarbonise many bus routes, but to do so bus operators need a reliable and large supply of low-cost, low-carbon hydrogen.
“This project will initially be able to produce enough hydrogen to power up to 300 buses, and has the potential to triple in scale as demand for hydrogen increases.
“We hope it will set an example for how these projects will be designed and built.”
Hygen is also working on a similar project in Bradford in the north of England.
Currently, most of the hydrogen sold in the UK is produced by splitting it from natural gas, a process that releases carbon dioxide.
Green hydrogen is made by using renewable electricity to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen – a process called electrolysis.
The hydrogen can then be used on site or transported to where it is needed.
Hydrogen produces no carbon emissions when burned, so it is considered a likely replacement for fossil fuels in heavy vehicles and industries such as steel and cement production.
The original plans for Ballymena have not yet finalized the source of renewable energy for the electrolyser.
The options are to buy it from an existing renewable energy generator or to develop new renewable capacity such as wind or solar power.
Net zero strategy
A consultation process for the project is now underway and it is planned to submit a planning application in April.
The UK government launched a hydrogen strategy in 2021 as part of its Net Zero strategy – the plan to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
There has been some controversy over the best ways to use hydrogen, particularly whether it should play a role in home heating.
Last year, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee suggested it is probably best suited for applications or places that:
Users adjacent to or accessible to places where hydrogen is produced, such as industrial clusters.
It added: “Key questions remain to be answered about how large quantities of hydrogen can be produced, distributed and used in the future in ways compatible with net zero and cost efficiency.”