Northern Germany is well on its way to becoming a power-to-gas El Dorado. The past years have seen citizens’ initiatives and businesses initiate projects to explore new avenues in this wind-rich region. Most of their activities have yet to hit the mainstream news and some weren’t even known to many professionals in the industry. But recently, an increasing number of publications have been focusing on ongoing projects, so we thought it was time to take a closer look at what’s happening.
Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony are among the German states with the most wind power plants. In some parts of both, the generation of locally sourced renewable power is already enough to meet the entire electricity demand at certain times of the year. Expectations are that by 2030, Schleswig-Holstein will theoretically be able to produce as much as 300 percent of the power required in this northernmost state in Germany.
Companies such as GP Joule, with its years-long investment of time and resources, have been trying to make efficient use of these large, locally generated amounts without having to transport it far away. André Steinau, assistant to GP Joule’s management board, explained, “We need to add value to these energy amounts in nearby facilities. The use of electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen is perfect for doing that.”
As part of a collaborative project in northern Friesland, GP Joule is currently planning to install a total of five power-to-gas plants, each including a 200-kilowatt PEM electrolysis system. The hydrogen produced by these systems is intended to be used, for example, to refuel two public H2 buses that make regular runs in Husum and Niebüll, south of the Danish border (around 300 kilometers or 186 miles per day). Additionally, it could be sold in the region or fed into the natural gas network. A spokesperson for GP said, “This is how northern Germany will gradually get to cost-effective and economical zero-emission mass transit.” She added, “Niebüll is the starting point for the train to the island of Sylt. Its diesel engine could be converted with little effort to run on renewably sourced hydrogen.” GP Joule had already conducted a study to determine the feasibility of such a project (see H2 Production by Water Electrolysis – Trends), with encouraging results. The company said that the endeavor had now reached the planning stage.
Power-to-gas in Brunsbüttel
A similar project has been underway in Brunsbüttel, 3 kilometers or nearly 2 miles north of the decommissioned power plant on the Northern Elbe riverside. Based on a bid request instigated by NEW 4.0, northern Germany’s innovation alliance (see box), plans are to install a wind-to-gas system and a battery storage unit next to the biomass heat power plant on Bioenergie Contracting’s factory premises. Both installations are said to be supplied with renewable electricity from Ostermoor, which has five wind power stations totaling 15 megawatts of capacity. The operator will be Wind to Gas Südermarsch, which early this year received a grant approval letter promising funds of EUR 2 million for the project worth EUR 7 million overall. The PEM electrolyzer (HyLYZER-400-30, 30 bars output pressure, 2.4 MWpeak; see figure 2) will come from Canadian manufacturer Hydrogenics, which won the contract for it in March. Installation is reported to start this fall.
Tim Brandt, managing director of Wind to Gas Südermarsch, explained, “Hydrogenics not only offered a compelling technological solution but also unmatched experience –
H2 gas station in Flensburg
Farthest up north, hydrogen has likewise been a hot topic for years. Now, Schleswig-Holstein is said to be seeing its first H2 filling station built in Flensburg. The idea is believed to have originated with a 2015 project of Reinhard Christiansen’s. The aim two years ago was to set up an installation in Risum-Lindholm in partnership with several energy companies to produce hydrogen from electricity and use it in FCEVs. Christiansen, who was born in the region, is not only managing director of Energie des Nordens based in Ellhöft but also the head of several wind farm cooperatives. As such, he has a valuable network of contacts throughout the area. In cooperation with 45 businesses, he originally intended to build an H2 refueling station, including an electrolyzer, on the outskirts of Niebüll.