As the industry powers onwards to Net Zero, the way we produce, use and store energy is changing. Our power, heating and transport systems must decarbonise if we are to achieve this target, and so a mix of low-carbon, renewable energy sources are needed.
The full potential of current offshore wind is partially restricted due to the intermittent nature of the wind and energy storage capabilities. This essentially means that the current infrastructure may struggle to support a constant supply of offshore renewable energy as the country moves towards electrification of transport and power.
Hydrogen generation powered by offshore wind, otherwise known as green hydrogen, will allow us to translate this intermittent energy stream into one that is more easily storable, allowing the industry to fine-tune output to consumer demand.
Green hydrogen not only provides a solution to the predictability of renewables, it can also create a major manufacturing sector for the UK. According to the Solving the Integration Challenge report, the overall demand for hydrogen by 2050 in the UK is predicted to be between 100- 300TWh, of comparable scale to the UK’s electricity system today. It is estimated to be 25% of Europe’s energy supply, with much more needed globally. With green hydrogen becoming as cheap as blue by the 2030s, much of this could be produced by offshore wind and electrolysis – the process of creating hydrogen by splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The combination of additional offshore wind deployment and electrolyser manufacture alone could generate over 120,000 new jobs, replacing those lost in conventional oil and gas and other high carbon industries.
This is where the £4.5m Milford Haven Energy Kingdom (MH:EK) project comes in. MH:EK aims to accelerate the transition to an integrated hydrogen and renewable energy system by creating diverse, local, community-based markets that integrate with, and benefit from, the cluster of major energy infrastructure along the Milford Haven Waterway. The project will build hydrogen-ready features and technologies such as fuel cell RASA cars, hybrid heat pumps and hydrogen-ready boilers for heating commercial buildings and will work with the local community to understand the barriers and challenges to bringing hydrogen heating into the home.
MH:EK will provide a blueprint for an investible, local, hydrogen-based energy system that will allow for the integration of heat, power and transport. It will help to safeguard local energy and automotive sector jobs and maintain the momentum in the UK’s transition from natural gas to hydrogen.
Earlier this month, the project launched its demonstrator technologies at the Milford Haven Waterfront, where attendees saw first-hand the real-life technology of the hydrogen electrolyser, storage and refueller systems that are being used to power the Riversimple ‘Rasa’ hydrogen fuel cell electric cars as well as hybrid hydrogen-ready boiler and air source heat pump system, which has the potential to combine the best of both the renewable electricity and renewable green hydrogen.
Dr Stephen Wyatt, Research and Disruptive Innovation Director, Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult said:
“It is clear that hydrogen has a crucial role to play alongside offshore wind if the UK is to achieve our goal of Net Zero by 2050. The MH:EK project is providing us with the real-world experience of the technology and commercial systems which will be vital in our transition to a low carbon economy.”
The UK has the opportunity and capability to excel as world-leaders in the production of green hydrogen and ultimately lead by example in the journey to a Net Zero economy. Projects like the MH:EK allow us to fully capitalise on this opportunity through government intervention and industry collaboration to support the creation of supply and demand in this new industry.