The island of Helgoland in the German North Sea is being proposed as a hub for producing green hydrogen from offshore wind
Working closely with leading energy companies, the authorities on the island have developed a plan they hope will be well-received once the German Government has published its long-awaited national hydrogen strategy.
The strategy – publication of which has been delayed – has been the subject of intense debate. It centres around the use of hydrogen in German industry and the transport sector.
A draft of the plan published in February 2020 suggested Germany might acquire a significant amount of the hydrogen it needs abroad, but plans are also being developed to produce green hydrogen domestically using electricity from offshore windfarms and via co-operation with neighbouring countries.
Industry associations have called on the federal government in Germany to commit to green hydrogen from offshore wind as it ups targets for offshore wind capacity. Lower Saxony environment and energy minister Olaf Lies said new, higher targets for offshore wind should be developed in tandem with the government’s hydrogen strategy. Mr Lies would like to see some of energy generated by future offshore windfarms used to produce green hydrogen.
Helgoland mayor Jörg Singer told OWJ that once the hydrogen strategy has finally been published, the companies he has been working with hope to make a proposal to the German Government to use Helgoland as the basis of a long-term development plan that could produce 5 GW of green hydrogen by 2030.
Mr Singer has been mayor of Helgoland since 2011 and studied industrial engineering in Germany and the US. He is one of the organisers of a well-attended series of economic forums on offshore wind held annually on the island.
He told OWJ that plans to develop the hydrogen economy in other countries, such as the Netherlands – where green hydrogen from offshore wind is also being proposed – are “more advanced” than the German strategy. In the Netherlands, the government is already studying the potential advantages of linking hydrogen production to offshore wind energy via integrated tenders. Mr Singer sees the Helgoland plan as way establish similar momentum in Germany.
Mr Singer and his partners in the AquaVentus project believe the German Bight and the island of Helgoland are ideally suited to use as an ‘offshore wind to green hydrogen laboratory’ that could help Germany develop a hydrogen economy of the type expected to be outlined in the German Government’s strategy.
“Once the strategy is published, we hope we can secure funding for a feasibility project,” Mr Singer told OWJ. The first stage in the proposal, ‘AQUAPrimus,’ foresees the development of pilot plants. The second stage, ‘AQUASector,’ foresees the development of an initial 350 MW offshore wind to green hydrogen facility in a ‘dedicated energy generation area’ as provided for in the WindSeeG (Germany’s Offshore Wind Energy Act).
Green hydrogen generated in the area would be transported via pipeline to Helgoland, where a liquid organic hydrogen carrier (LOHC) facility would process it for a range of potential uses, including hydrogen-powered vessels (which could include ferries and service operation vessels serving the offshore wind industry in the North Sea).
LOHC is a way to store hydrogen by binding it to a carrier molecule. Doing so makes it easier to transport, as per conventional liquid fuels. The carrier can then be recovered once the hydrogen is released.
In the later stages of the plan, AquaPrimus and AquaSector have been used to create the infrastructure necessary for commissioning a pipeline to mainland Germany that would enable large-scale offshore wind to hydrogen projects to be planned and developed.
The ambitious plan foresees Helgoland being developed into a distribution centre, from which large quantities of green hydrogen could be made available to a national hydrogen network.
On 18 May 2020, German transmission system operators published details of plans for a transmission network for hydrogen.
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