Hydrogen offers a path for European offshore wind sector to maintain market leadership

Hydrogen

By converting offshore wind energy to hydrogen at the source, decarbonisation goals can be achieved faster and at lower costs, according to a report.

Innovate and Industrialise, published by Roland Berger, explored how Europe’s offshore wind sector can maintain its market leadership and meet the continent’s energy goals. In order to do this, it recommended targeting advancements such as converting offshore wind energy into hydrogen, developing floating offshore wind technology and cutting costs.

Hydrogen will be key to achieving the world’s post-2030 decarbonisation goals, though huge volumes will be required, which is where offshore wind becomes relevant. It is the most suitable renewable energy source in Northwestern Europe for the direct coupling of large-scale electricity generation to industrial-scale hydrogen production. With this in mind, any future offshore wind energy capacity expansion plans should consider the potential conversion of offshore wind energy to large quantities of hydrogen.

It went to outline some of the most compelling reasons to locate electrolysers at the offshore wind energy source, including lower costs, the potential for a faster rollout, improved reliability, access to storage, and a lower environmental impact.

It is expected that green hydrogen from North Sea offshore wind energy will cost around €4/kg by 2025, making it competitive with hydrogen shipped from the Middle East, Chile and other regions, where renewable electricity is cheap and the cost – including transportation to Europe – is around €4/kg. However, over the longer term, it remains uncertain as to whether North Sea hydrogen will remain competitive. Prime, near-shore locations in Europe will fill up, driving offshore wind energy further out to sea, driving up costs in the process. Costs of vessel transport will also likely fall, which in turn will place additional pressures on green hydrogen produced within European waters.

Even at higher costs, hydrogen generated from offshore wind energy in Europe will remain attractive. It will reduce reliance on imports from other regions, some of which may be politically unstable, and allow Europe to capture the downstream value added of hydrogen when it is used as a feedstock. It further noted that where offshore wind energy (OWE) is converted to hydrogen, around two-thirds of the cost per kilogram of it is attributable to offshore wind, meaning costs reductions in OWE are a “major stepping stone” to Europe’s energy independence and industrial competitiveness.

Its study went on to map out some of the key areas where the sector can innovate and industrialise to compete with global competitors, outlining how manufacturing of turbines and foundations can be further industrialised, but requires further standardisation of parts; smarter integrated designs would enable more efficient offshore installation, resulting in key cost reductions; and remote digital structural health and condition monitoring of offshore wind installations, cited as essential for reducing maintenance costs.