Clean power activity has been percolating under the surface of Ireland for a few years now, and suddenly it’s in full bloom thanks to the advent of new technology, including green hydrogen and floating wind turbines. That’s good news for the economy and great news for the rest of Europe, which is scrambling to untangle itself from the web of Russian fossil energy imports.
Ireland & Wind Power, & Green Hydrogen
Our friends over at BBC ran the numbers on Northern Ireland’s renewable energy profile last year and noted the expansive growth of wind power. They also noted the key role of energy storage, with green hydrogen front and center.
Last January the Irish Times noted that the Republic of Ireland is one of the few EU member states that has yet to formulate a hydrogen strategy, but they also noted that the pan-Ireland organization Wind Energy Ireland and other advocates are pushing for government policy makers to pick up the green hydrogen and long duration energy storage balls.
For those of you wondering what the fuss is all about, hydrogen is ubiquitous throughout the modern global economy, in agriculture, food processing, toiletries, medicines and other products in addition to serving as a combustible fuel and an input for zero emission electricity-producing fuel cells for stationary use and in the transportation sector (aircraft, too).
The primary source of hydrogen today is natural gas, and to a lesser extent coal and recovered wastes, and that explains why industry stakeholders (with one notable exception) are falling all over themselves to find a more sustainable supply chain for hydrogen. The emerging favorite is electrolysis, which deploys electricity — from renewable resources, of course — and a catalyst to push hydrogen gas from water.
More Green Hydrogen For Ireland
Hydrogen is an industrial process input, a fuel, an energy carrier, and a long duration energy storage medium all at once, which means that green hydrogen can juggle a lot of balls in the sparkling green economy of the future, especially so for Ireland, which lacks in-house sources of oil and gas but which has plenty of wind energy to spare overall (note: for the rest of this article the North and Republic are commingled. Drop a note in the comment thread if you would like to add more detail for our readers).
On the green hydrogen front, the firm Mercury Renewables is all excited about its plans for revving up a first-of-its-kind onshore wind farm coupled with an electrolyzer system in County Mayo. Called Firlough, the 75-megawatt project has been in the works for more than 10 years, with part of the delay due to a bottleneck in the electricity transmission infrastructure. The hydrogen angle will help make room for alternative transportation and additional use cases.
More Green Hydrogen For More Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles
In Galway, last April SSE Renewables drew attention to the launch of the Hydrogen Valley, a project of the Galway Hydrogen Hub consortium. In addition to SSE, the members are NUI Galway, the Port of Galway, CIÉ Group and Bus Éireann, Aran Islands Ferries, Lasta Mara Teo, and Aer Arann Islands.
“A Hydrogen Valley is a regional ecosystem that links hydrogen research, production, distribution, and transportation with various end users such as transport and industry. The utilisation of indigenous renewable hydrogen at Hydrogen Valleys is considered an important step towards enabling the development of a new hydrogen economy,” SSE explained.
The flagship Hydrogen Valley project is a demonstration-scale green hydrogen facility, to be used for fuel cell trucks, buses and other vehicles. The idea is to replicate the model throughout Ireland.
More Wind Power For Ireland
More details on the Hydrogen Valley project were just released by the Galway H2 consortium, so stay tuned for more on that.
Meanwhile, Simply Blue Group is also out with a big new announcement this week.
On June 21, the company let word slip that it is working on the new Olympic Offshore Wind project off the coast of County Down, following the previously announced Nomadic floating offshore wind turbine project. The Nomadic project will feed into a green hydrogen hub through the company MJM Renewables (a subsidiary of MJM Group), so stay tuned for more on that.
For those of you keeping score at home, the Olympic project will pile another 1.3 gigawatts to Ireland’s offshore wind profile when fully built out. The Nomadic project weighs in at 500 megawatts.
Lots More Wind Power For Ireland
Simply Blue has been rather busy these days. Last fall, Shell put up a stake in Simply Blue’s 1.35-gigawatt Western Star offshore floating wind project, which also includes a wave energy harvesting element. All together, the company has more than 9 gigawatts of offshore wind in the pipeline, mostly in Ireland and the UK.
Last fall the Irish Times also described a new $10 billion, 4-gigawatt wind farm project under the wing of the firm Enterprize Energy. The plan is to leverage wind power for the green hydrogen market in Ireland.
“The project will provide electricity for a 4 gigawatt hydrogen facility in Ireland being developed by E1-H2 and Zenith Energy. called Green Marlin, which could be generating as soon as 2026,” the Times reported. “The energy companies have signed a precursor to a power purchase agreement, with EI-H2 off-taking the energy.”
As described by the Times, Enterprize and its partners are also eyeballing the closely related, emerging green ammonia market. Ammonia (NH3) is another one of those fossil-dependent industrial and agricultural chemicals in need of decarbonizing, and green hydrogen is finally providing the opportunity.
Ammonia can serve as an alternative transportation medium for hydrogen, which would enable the Enterprize project to produce hydrogen for export, eventually.
Meanwhile, Over In Russia
If Russia wants to keep its stranglehold on the global energy supply, it has a lot of work to do. President Vladimir Putin’s murderous rampage through Ukraine put all of Europe on the fast track to turn off the fossil energy spigot from Russia, and Ukraine intends to leverage its considerable renewable energy resources to remove Russia’s fingers from the European energy pie, particularly regarding green hydrogen.
It’s also worth noting that offshore wind activity is picking up in the Baltic Sea, where Russia maintains its one and only all-weather seaport and naval base at Kaliningrad Oblast. The outpost is completely surrounded by Lithuania and Poland, but was assigned to Russia when the dust settled after World War II.
If Putin and his planners were thinking ahead, they could have leveraged Kaliningrad to gain a foothold in the Baltic Sea wind power industry, but alas. As with so many other opportunities in the renewable energy field — and in other matters — they let this one slip through their fingers.
When last heard from, Kaliningrad was dealing with the fallout from a ban on the transportation of sanctioned products from the rest of Russia by rail, imposed by Lithuania in accord with EU policy.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Photo: Floating offshore wind turbine courtesy of Simply Blue Group.
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