With Battery Storage only a Partial Solution to the Efficient Use of Wind Power, Germany Plans to Exploit Helgoland as a Hydrogen Distribution Hub

Several European energy companies are currently exploring the feasibility of producing hydrogen out at sea. Although not particularly efficient, electroysis of water to produce hydrogen is a useful way to capture wind energy that might otherwise be in surplus. Batteries could of course be used shorterm energy storage and release, but future projections indicate hydrogen could handle greater quantities of energy over greater timescales and could also be an efficient way to transfer it to the mainland – with one hydrogen pipeline handling the same energy transmission as 5 DC interconnector cables.

Germany has an advantage here with its own off-shore island of Helgoland, a one time WWII fortress in the North Sea but now a rather limited and lonely summer holiday destination and opportunity to buy tax free alcohol and cigarettes. The island could act as a collection base for platform-based hydrogen electrolysis and a distribution centre for hydrogen to be routed to neighbouring industrial centres in Germany, Holland and Scandinavia. Of course, this might well spell the end of both alcohol and smoking on the island!

reports that prominent among the companies is the Rheinisch-Westfälisches Elektrizitätswerk, better known as RWE, once the owner of Thames Water and 10 power stations in the UK. As the company remodels itself around the newer energy sources, Thames Water and 5 of the power stations (one of which was Didcot) have been closed and sold.

Other companies involved are the Norwegian energie giant Equinor and the Dutch pipeline specialist Gasunie.

At first an electrolysis capacity of 300 MW is planned by 2028, producing 20,000 tonnes of hydrogen a year. By 2035 this is expected to rise to 10 GW of electrolysis capacity for a variety of industrial uses and making it feasible to economically produce of ‘green fertilisers’, reducing the use of methane, and even ‘green steel’, replacing coking coal with hydrogen. UK Government please note!

Meanwhile reports that, with other partners, RWE is investing in the Triton Knoll (near Grimsby) and the Sofia (Central Dogger) offshore wind farms, and is the preferred bidder for two other nearby sites on the Dogger Bank (thank you, Ed Davey!).