North Sea Wind Power Hub Consortium Adds Gas and Storage to the Mix

Image source: TenneT

Dutch energy infrastructure company Gasunie has joined the consortium of TenneT Netherlands, TenneT Germany and Denmark’s Energinet formed to develop the North Sea Wind Power Hub.

Together, the four companies form a partnership that studies and investigates the possible development of a large-scale, sustainable European energy supply system in the North Sea. In order to achieve the climate targets for Europe alone, approx. 230 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind energy capacity needs to be developed, of which 180GW in the North Sea, the consortium said.

The volumes of offshore wind energy required for the energy transition are so large that gas-based transmission and storage solutions shall be deployed in addition to electricity connections. The costs of energy transmission and long-term storage in gas form are considerably lower per unit of energy than if the energy is transmitted and stored in the form of electricity, the developers said. In addition, combining the strengths of the electricity and gas supply system can provide a key boost to the use of hydrogen as a sustainable solution in numerous applications in industry, transportation, and the built environment.

By developing the North Sea Wind Power Hub – which will be able to support offshore wind farms with a total capacity of 100 GW – the consortium wants to make the European objectives feasible as well as affordable. It will supply a substantial part of Europe’s future sustainable power. The basic idea of the plan calls for the construction of one or more so-called ‘Power Link Islands’ in the central North Sea, possibly the Dogger Bank, with interconnections to the countries bordering the North Sea.

Such artificial islands will be situated at a location that offers ideal wind conditions, i.e. frequent high wind speeds. It will be possible to connect a large number of offshore wind farms to a Power Link Island. The location facilitates the distribution and transmission of wind‑generated electricity via direct-current connections to the North Sea countries – the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Norway, Germany, and Denmark. The electricity transmission cables will not only transmit wind energy to the connected countries, but will simultaneously serve as interconnectors between the energy markets of the aforementioned countries, enabling them to trade electricity across their borders. In addition, the power can be converted to hydrogen for large scale transport to shore, storage or buffering purposes.

Gasunie will contribute expertise in the transport and storage of gas via interconnected international grids, and managing the balance between the supply of and demand for energy. The company is also developing knowledge about the use of renewable gases such as hydrogen, and is looking into various conversion processes, including power-to-gas (hydrogen) conversion. This process uses electrolysis to store and transport internationally large quantities of renewable energy in the form of gas. Conversion into hydrogen is expected to play an important role in the North Sea Wind Power Hub system. It will enable wind-generated energy to be stored in the form of gas close to remote off-shore sources, and then brought ashore via the existing offshore gas infrastructure, for instance.

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