The global race to produce hydrogen offshore
By Chris Baraniuk
Technology of Business reporterPublished1 day agoShareRelated Topics
Last year was a record breaker for the UK’s wind power industry.
Wind generation reached its highest ever level, at 17.2GW on 18 December, while wind power achieved its biggest share of UK energy production, at 60% on 26 August.
Yet occasionally the huge offshore wind farms pump out far more electricity than the country needs – such as during the first Covid-19 lockdown last spring when demand for electricity sagged.
But what if you could use that excess power for something else?
“What we’re aiming to do is generate hydrogen directly from offshore wind,” says Stephen Matthews, Hydrogen Lead at sustainability consultancy ERM.
His firm’s project, Dolphyn, aims to fit floating wind turbines with desalination equipment to remove salt from seawater, and electrolysers to split the resulting freshwater into oxygen and the sought-after hydrogen.
The idea of using excess wind energy to make hydrogen has sparked great interest, not least because governments are looking to move towards greener energy systems within the next 30 years, under the terms of the Paris climate agreement.
Hydrogen is predicted to be an important component in these systems and may be used in vehicles or in power plants. But for that to happen, production of the gas, which produces zero greenhouse gas emissions when burned, will need to dramatically increase in the coming decades.
Mr Matthews says his firm’s project is just getting going, with a prototype system using a floating wind turbine of roughly 10 megawatt capacity planned, but not yet built.
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It’s possible that the system could be based in Scotland and the aim is to start producing hydrogen around 2024 or 2025.
But there are many other ventures in this area besides Dolphyn.
Wind turbine maker Siemens Gamesa and energy firm Siemens Energy are ploughing 120m euros ($145m; £105m) into the development of an offshore turbine with a built-in electrolyser.
German energy company Tractebel is exploring the po