Offshore generation of hydrogen at far from shore wind farms
As we aspire toward a zero-carbon future, wind farms have already been identified as an important component of our energy mix.
Far from shore wind farms are now becoming technologically possible, but face significant challenges. What's not often appreciated is that these would also enable the wider use of hydrogen as a fuel. An understanding of key aspects of far from shore wind turbine design is necessary to appreciate the dual opportunities that could be realised.
Far from shore wind farms
In June 2015, the Carbon Trust report to the Scottish Parliament identified that the UK would require up to 55GW of wind energy by 2050 and that it would be necessary to move to deeper offshore waters to meet this goal.
However, moving further from shore doesn't happen without overcoming some significant engineering challenges.
The move to deeper water shall require a new design for turbine monopile to be developed. Those currently present and used by inshore windfarms won't be suitable in deeper waters.
Equally, the cost of electrical cables to shore are significant.
Electrical transmission from near-shore wind farms is normally done using high voltage alternating currents (HVAC). However, as transmission distances approach 100 miles, this option becomes less practical and HVDC systems may be required. HVDC systems require considerably larger and more costly offshore transformer and converter substations.
In addition, the cost of the cables to shore will rise in proportion to their length and an onshore station will be required to transform the current from DC to AC for connection to the grid.
Alternative option – hydrogen generation far from shore
for hydrogen comes in. The benefits of hydrogen gas are striking. It emits no carbon dioxide and, if used more widely, would have a major impact on the decarbonisation of our fuel supply.
Heating and transport in particular are major CO2 emitters, and would be ripe for decarbonisation if the power and generation of hydrogen could be used effectively.
However, current methods of hydrogen generation are not clean, so new ways of developing and distributing this fuel are required if we are to meet our sustainable clean energy aspirations.
An alternative, which is discussed in a recent ICE briefing report, is to generate hydrogen using far from shore floating wind turbines, using offshore platforms originally constructed for oil and gas production to act as a hub for the facilities to produce hydrogen by electrolysis. The opportunity exists to use the sub-structures of decommissioned installations, such as the Brent platforms.
Article & image source: ICE