Electricity vs Hydrogen – Which is the Future of Offshore Wind?

13th September | No Comments

Electricity vs Hydrogen – Which is the Future of Offshore Wind? graphic

The inevitable shift from fossil fuels to renewables has familiarised everyone with the concepts of decarbonisation and sustainability.

Policymakers, environmental activists, investors and the worldwide community in general are pressing for alternative energy sources and the fuels of the future to become a reality as soon as possible to halt the climate emergency.

The prevalence of offshore wind energy as a cleaner, renewable alternative has been growing steadily over recent years. Taking advantage of the strong force of winds produced on the high seas directly translates to unlimited, non-polluting energy, which is a clear need of the hour and an ideal source of energy for myriad activities.

Now, offshore wind energy is also being promoted for the direct production of green hydrogen as well as electricity to the grid.

The important question, however, is this route the ideal future of decarbonisation?

Offshore Production of Green Hydrogen

Using excess wind energy to produce hydrogen seems to be a fairly interesting premise, as the world awaits a reliable, greener alternative to conventional energy systems over the coming few years.

Using the excess electricity produced by wind farms when the grid is at capacity not only prevents electricity from going to waste, but can create a fuel that produces zero greenhouse gas emissions when burned.

In particular, Northern Europe is emerging as a significant supplier of clean power and a key innovator in the sector, helping generation costs to possibly fall to the range of €55 to €70/MWh.

However, this vision is not free from challenges.

One of the most important requisites for the production of clean hydrogen from offshore wind is increased need for electricity.

If green hydrogen is going to become a viable option as a widely-used and widely-available fuel source, the demand for supply may double the demand for electricity – not just in terms of production, but also in regards to transport and heat.

The result? Only using excess wind energy will not be enough, but sourcing the additional electricity needed through the grid is not a sustainable option either, as this may depend on non-clean energy being used to fuel the production of hydrogen, resulting in the practice not being as sustainable as imagined when implementing on a global scale.

A More Sustainable Alternative to Decarbonisation

The growing solution is to take hydrogen production off the direct offshore power grid through dedicated, hydrogen-producing wind farms.

Several leading companies are devising reliant large-scale hydrogen production plants powered by offshore wind turbines, such as Neptune Energy and Orsted.

Hydrogen is then pumped ashore on similar lines as natural gas for direct use in various industrial applications.

Large-scale hydrogen electrolysers are also becoming more available, while the cost of setting up offshore wind turbines to power them has fallen considerably.

Several experts believe this is the right time to promote global-scale hydrogen electrolysis at sea.

This clean power-derived hydrogen not only reduces CO2 emissions sharply when used in various industries, but is itself produced in a much more sustainable, cost-effective manner.

The Way Forward

Looking at the future, it seems both electricity and hydrogen are key – one to provide energy to the grid, and the other to serve as a clean fuel source.

The world needs a sustainable and planned approach to balance the two, such that the environmental repercussions of one and costs of the other do not overpower their brilliant utility.

Regions such as the North Sea or the shores of the Atlantic already host extensive undersea pipeline infrastructure besides deep industry experience in the management and transport of natural gas.

The same infrastructure and experience can be leveraged when it comes to commercial use and deployment of clean hydrogen on an industrial level.

With several small- and large-scale island hydrogen projects coming up in Europe and the world, equipped with floating wind turbines and onboard electrolysers, it seems green hydrogen is all set for wider acceptance and approval soon.

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