Spare wind energy could power hydrogen storage to supply UK in winter

Renewable hydrogen produced by energy from UK wind farms which is then stored in disused oil and gas fields could help to avoid future winter energy supply crunches without exacerbating climate change.

According to new research published by the Energy Networks Association (ENA), the country’s wind and solar farms produce enough spare electricity in spring and summer, when demand is lower, to produce green hydrogen to the equivalent capacity of 25 Hinkley Point C nuclear power plants.

The hydrogen stored would provide the same amount of energy needed for every person in the UK to charge a Tesla Model S electric vehicle more than 21 times, in the autumn and winter months when energy demand is highest, creating a clean energy buffer that avoids having to manage limited energy supplies on the international markets.

The research also finds that the UK has enough capacity to store the hydrogen in a combination of salt caverns and disused oil and gas fields in the North Sea, as well other locations, to meet this demand.

The research also finds that renewable hydrogen would help reduce the total number of wind farms needed in 2050 by more than 75 per cent, because it will ensure electricity generated by Britain’s wind farms is used as efficiently as possible, by avoiding surplus electricity going to waste.

The ENA said that running the energy system this way would reduce the required total electricity generating capacity of UK wind farms from 500-600GW by 2050 down to 140-190GW.

It would mean that spare renewable electricity is used to produce green hydrogen rather than going to waste. Under the alternative scenario, additional wind farms would need to be built to accommodate for autumn and wind energy demand peaks but be left unused during other times of the year.

Chris Train, ENA’s green gas champion, said: “This research shows how green hydrogen can provide a clean energy bumper that can protect us from fluctuations on the international energy markets, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – whatever the weather, come rain or sunshine.

“It will also allow us to get the most out of the energy infrastructure that is at the forefront of our renewable revolution, whilst ensuring that we have a net zero energy system that is truly a system for all seasons.”

Currently, the vast majority of the world’s hydrogen fuel is actually produced using fossil fuels and overall has a carbon footprint significantly greater than natural gas, coal and diesel.

In August, the Government published its first hydrogen strategy, supported by £105m in direct funding, that detailed a twin-track approach to subsidising hydrogen production based on whether it was created with fossil fuels or electrolysis powered by green energy.

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