Copenhagen Energy Islands: A New Venture to Revolutionize Offshore Wind and Green Hydrogen Production

Over the next 25 years, the offshore wind industry is set to undergo significant growth, with projections indicating around 500 gigawatts of capacity in the water by 2050. The question of where this immense power output will be utilized remains open. The challenge lies in creating new onshore facilities and transmission lines capable of absorbing and distributing this energy. Addressing this potential bottleneck, a novel venture proposes establishing a network of 10 offshore green hydrogen plants.

Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP), a leading name in the renewable energy sector, is spearheading this venture through the newly established Copenhagen Energy Islands. CIP is known for its pioneering efforts in the renewable energy domain, including the development of Estonia’s first offshore wind farm in the Baltic Sea.

The new venture aims to establish about 10 offshore renewable energy hubs, each with a capacity of around 10 gigawatts, totaling an ambitious 100 gigawatts. Potential locations for these hubs include the wind-rich North Sea and Baltic Sea, with South-East Asia also being considered.

The driving force behind the Copenhagen Energy Islands is the concept of scale. The expectation is that multi-gigawatt offshore wind farms will become standard in the coming decade, necessitating more efficient energy transfer systems from sea to shore.

To address the transmission bottleneck faced by the offshore wind industry, the Energy Islands concept focuses on integrating large-scale offshore wind energy into global energy systems. A key component of this strategy is green hydrogen, produced by electrolysis using wind power. This approach aims to provide a fossil-free gas alternative for various industrial processes.

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The concept of power-to-gas, though relatively new, is rapidly gaining traction. The idea is to use surplus wind energy, especially during low-demand periods like night-time, for electrolysis, thereby addressing curtailment issues and benefiting from lower off-peak electricity rates.

Beyond its role as an energy carrier, green hydrogen offers a versatile solution for storing and transporting energy from offshore wind farms. Unlike electricity, which requires cables, hydrogen can be shipped or pipelined to shore. It also serves as a storage medium, enabling the generation of electricity through gas turbines or fuel cells as needed.

The argument for building green hydrogen facilities offshore, as opposed to on land, is compelling. Locating these facilities at offshore wind farms significantly reduces power transmission costs and harnesses synergies between power and hydrogen production. CEI estimates that using a hydrogen pipeline for energy transfer from wind farms is far more cost-effective than high voltage direct current cables.

The Energy Islands concept combines existing technologies at a larger scale, leveraging local supply chains already established for offshore infrastructure. This approach is expected to allow a cost-efficient build-out and integration of offshore wind.

The venture extends beyond power-to-gas to encompass Power-to-X, which includes electrofuels and ammonia produced using green hydrogen.

Regarding the use of seawater for electrolysis, CEI is likely to equip the islands with desalination systems to purify water, though work is ongoing to reduce the cost of these systems and improve the electrolyzers themselves.

The global green hydrogen market is evolving, with various studies exploring different aspects of green hydrogen and offshore wind. The Energy Islands concept, if successful in cutting costs, could play a significant role in making offshore hydrogen production more viable and dampening the overall impact on energy costs.

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The trend of multi-use offshore wind farms, incorporating floating solar arrays and wave energy devices, was a notable topic at the 2023 Ocean Energy Conference in The Hague, showcasing the potential for diverse renewable energy solutions.

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