Shell to Test Floating Solar, Hydrogen Generation at New Wind Farm

wind farm eneco
File image courtesy Eneco

Published Jul 30, 2020 9:54 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Royal Dutch Shell-led CrossWind consortium has won the lease rights to develop a novel offshore wind farm in the Dutch sector of the North Sea. The 760 megawatt farm will use about 70 giant Siemens Gamesa turbines, but it also incorporates five unusual energy demonstrator projects. 

According to Shell and co-developer Eneco, the site will include a floating solar park; short-term battery storage; turbines tuned to minimize the "wake effect" that each turbine has on the units behind it; and renewable hydrogen via electrolysis. The consortium hopes that some combination of these measures will help to even out the supply of power when the wind is low. 

Ultimately, as part of Shell's NortH2 initiative, a substantial fraction of its power may eventually feed a renewable hydrogen electrolysis plant in Rotterdam - part of Shell's plan to become a net-zero-carbon business by 2050. Assuming a feasibility study returns positive results, Shell, Gasunie and Groningen Seaports hope to produce their first green hydrogen by 2027, distributing up to 800,000 tonnes per year to industrial clients. 

"This wind farm is a crucial part of a new value chain – from wind to hydrogen – with our ambition to build a green hydrogen plant in Rotterdam and with NortH2. This investment fits very well with Shell’s aspirations to competitively deliver more and cleaner energy," said Maarten Wetselaar, Director of Shell Integrated Gas and New Energies.

The consortium's bid does not require Dutch government subsidies, making it the country's third unsubsidized wind farm. By the time it is completed in 2023, the Netherlands' power grid will derive a total of 4.7 gigawatts - about 16 percent of demand - from offshore wind. By 2030, the country's total capacity is expected to reach 11 gigawatts, about 40 percent of expected demand. 

Like Equinor, Shell has become increasingly active in the offshore wind space. Last year, it acquired the French floating offshore wind developer EOLFI, which is working on a pilot floating wind project off the coast of Brittany. Pending approval, this project will see the installation of three wind turbines on semi-submersible floats in water that is too deep for standard fixed towers.