Europe Is Stockpiling Its Wind Energy By Converting It Into Hydrogen

Wind Farm / Public Domain

Europe has more aggressive and ambitious climate policies than the U.S. does.

Denmark’s biggest energy firm, Ørsted, is now saying the wind farms they’re proposing in the North sea will convert excess power into gas. This would add another source of renewable power to Europe by turning electricity into gases such as hydrogen or methane, according to Scientific American.

Some experts think that “power-to-gas” could be prohibitively expensive, but Europe will try for itself. European power equipment manufacturers said all of their gas-fired turbines will be certified to run up to 20 percent hydrogen by next year. This burns more quickly than methane-rich natural gas. Natural gas distributors have also said they will use hydrogen to decarbonize Europe’s gas by 2050.

Europe has aggressive climate policies compared to the U.S. They have much more ambitious goals, such as reducing 80 percent or more gas-fired plants by 2050.

“In order to reach the targets for climate protection, we need even more renewable energy. Green hydrogen is perceived as one of the most promising ways to make the energy transition happen,” says Armin Schnettler, head of energy and electronics research at electric equipment giant Siemens.

Other Europe projects are demonstrating “methanation” equipment which converts hydrogen to methane. This can be used as a replacement for natural gas. Yet, they are finding that methanation isn’t as crucial to power-to-gas plans as long believed. Hydrogen can be injected directly into natural gas pipelines, which is forbidden in the U.S.

A study from Nature Energy released in February found that renewable hydrogen already pays for itself in some circumstances. “If costs continue to decline as they have done in recent years, power-to-gas will become competitive at large scale within the next decade,” says study co-author Gunther Glenk, an economist at the Technical University of Munich.

According to Glenk, power-to-gas could scale up faster with help from the government. It would help if governments gave premium prices for renewable hydrogen and methane.

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