FRANKFURT / DUESSELDORF (Reuters) – Siemens Gamesa and Siemens Energy are developing a commercial offshore wind turbine that produces hydrogen via electrolysis, the companies said, marking a breakthrough in mass production of renewable hydrogen.
The companies are investing 120 million euros (146 million dollars) in the system, which was not previously reported. It is the most concrete plan in the renewable energy sector still capitalizing on an expected boom in hydrogen demand.
In the European Union, renewable hydrogen, which can replace fossil fuels in sectors that are struggling to decarbonise, is seen as a way to achieve emissions reduction targets.
Hoping to outperform major rivals Vestas and General Electric, Siemens Energy and Siemens Gamesa are targeting large industrial players, including steelmakers, refineries and chemical companies, as customers from the mid 1920s.
“It’s really about developing a commercially viable product,” said Christian Bruch, chief executive officer of Siemens Energy, which owns 67 percent of Siemens Gamesa, the world’s largest offshore wind turbine manufacturer.
“I don’t know of any other company that combines wind power, electrolysis and high voltage offshore technology into one company.”
Siemens Energy was spun off from Siemens parent last year. About one sixth of the electricity generated globally is based on the group’s technology.
“We have to completely reorganize the turbine, which was designed for electricity generation,” said Andreas Nauen, CEO of Siemens Gamesa.
The joint effort aims to integrate electrolyser technology, required to produce hydrogen, into offshore turbines.
“We are looking into our 14 megawatt turbine, which will be our bread and butter product by the mid-2020s,” Nauen said.
(For an interactive version of this graph click here)
Green hydrogen is created by dividing water into its two components using electricity from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, as opposed to the cheaper gray hydrogen, which is produced using fossil fuels.
Although most projects across the continent are in a pilot phase, the EU estimates that investments in green hydrogen in Europe could reach € 470 billion by 2050 and create up to 1 million jobs.
“The fascinating thing about our cooperation is that it’s about developing a product,” said Bruch of Siemens Energy.
The plans of Siemens Energy and Siemens Gamesa are supported by the German government, which has allocated 9 billion euros to start a national hydrogen industry, with the aim of becoming a global leader in the sector.
Germany, which borders the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, would be a good location for a first commercial project, Siemens Gamesa’s Nauen said.
It could be 100-200 megawatts, he said, adding that potential customers need to be located closer to the source as the transportation of hydrogen generated by offshore wind turbines will require pipelines, rather than electrical cables.
“Potential offtakers include industries in coastal areas, such as chemical and steel companies,” Nauen said.
Industrial companies, including Thyssenkrupp and Salzgitter, are looking to use hydrogen technology to help them significantly reduce their carbon footprint.
But Siemens Energy’s Bruch said offshore wind turbines capable of producing hydrogen are just one of many ways to achieve net zero emissions.
“Hydrogen is a key topic, but there is no silver bullet here,” he said.
($ 1 = 0.8222 euros)
Editing by Edward Taylor and Barbara Lewis