Offshore wind installations in the future may pump hydrogen ashore via pipeline in addition to power cables.
ITM Power, Orsted, Siemens Gamesa and Element Energy have gained a 5 million euro grant from the European Commission to investigate integrating hydrogen electrolysers into wind turbines in marine environments, according to a joint release.
The partners in the so-called “Oyster” project will explore producing renewable hydrogen from offshore wind at costs that are competitive with natural gas – the dominant fuel in hydrogen production currently. They would then transport the renewable clean-burning hydrogen fuel ashore.
“Offshore wind is now one of the lowest-cost forms of electricity generation in Europe and will have an important role in Europe’s decarbonisation plans,” said Michael Dolman, Associate Director at Element Energy, in the release.
Wind installations have many benefits that allow for cost reduction, and their efficiency only looks set to improve. Manufactures are producing larger wing spans and higher capacity turbines. Installations are increasingly able to move further off the coast of Europe into higher and steadier winds. As a result, pilot funding is following the most likely – or competitive – source of power for the electrolysers that separate hydrogen molecules from water into purified fuel form.
Meanwhile, the hurdles wind farms face remain unchanged. Generation remains variable and dependent on the elements. Power transmission cables become less efficient and more expensive the further offshore wind generation moves. And projects face potential grid infrastructure bottlenecks in moving from generation to customer.
Hydrogen output provides a fuel product as an alternative to variable generation. Some sectors cannot decarbonize through electricity, requiring a different solution, such as hydrogen, according to Anders Christian Nordstrøm, Vice President and Head of Ørsted’s hydrogen activities.
In any case, very large amounts of renewable energy need to be transmitted to shore, according to Michael Korsgaard Nielsen a spokesman for Ørsted.
“Offshore hydrogen production could be a potential future supplemental way of bringing some of the vast amounts of renewable energy from far-shore offshore wind farms to shore,” Nielsen said.
The project is planned to start in 2021 and run to the end of 2024. ITM Power is responsible for the development of the electrolyser and trials, while Ørsted will lead the offshore deployment analysis. Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and Element Energy are providing technical and project expertise.