The North Sea Wind Power Hub Consortium (NSWPH) has unveiled its plans for a massive wind development in the North sea, describing it as a Hub-and-Spoke concept with each hub having between 10 GW and 15 GW of wind power – a shared use of key locations to create multi-GW offshore far North seas wind locations – with up to 180 GW rolled out by 2045 connected to the UK and continental Europe.
The plan is to deploy about 7 GW a year leading up to 2045 and it is being pitched as a way of singlehandedly catching up with the promises made at the Paris Climate Accord.
The group has called for long term market security in order that the stakeholders can invest with confidence to build-up the required supply chains. And for that it says that urgent agreements between governments are needed post-2030.
The NSWPH consortium consists of TenneT (Dutch and German Transmission operator), Energinet (the Danish transmission operators) and Gasunie (the Dutch National gas transmission operator) and the Port of Rotterdam and they have been working with wind farm developers to bring the concept together. It’s a kind of “big bang” theory for renewables for Western Europe. For the UK to back it, it will need at least one big UK firm to join the consortium.
The network of farms will all be connected, and a number will offer wind to electricity to hydrogen facilities and to other chemical energy storage formats.
It is envisaged that the hub platforms can be a combination of artificial “sand” islands, good for larger hubs, but which take up to 8 years to build, which are being tried in China, and caisson islands (airtight foundations into the sea) suitable for smaller hubs in shallow waters under 25 meters deep, which would take only 3 years to build. Some would use a simple jacket structure, again only taking three years to put up.
The group says it has done a separate generic environmental assessment for each foundation type, but would still have to do them for individual sites.
It hopes that sand islands in particular will be good for attracting and supporting key endangered species for feeding and breeding.
It is this length of commitment that requires government agreement beyond 2030 to ensure investment started so far out is not overtaken by events.
The NSWPH has invited the Danish, Dutch and German governments and the European Commission to consider setting-up consultation, but not the UK.
Each of the NSWPH companies has the four main papers it has produced on its website which it claims shows the concept is technically feasible.
A first Hub-and-Spoke project will likely be electrically connected to shore and with additional power-to-gas to provide energy system flexibility and could be operational in the 2030s
While it is likely possible to build a first Hub and Spoke project within the current regulatory framework the NSWPH claims that significant changes are needed in national practices, approaches, planning and policies in order to allow for integrated infrastructure projects such as the modular hub concept being part of the long term energy transition.
In the future (after 2030), once large, far-offshore wind regions have been defined for development, it will be possible to develop several hubs that will act as central platforms for supporting the infrastructure required to transport the energy, e.g. for converting electricity into green hydrogen.
The relevant wind power capacities in question range from 70 to 150 gigawatts by the year 2040 and up to 180 gigawatts by 2045 in the North Sea and are intended to be developed using a modular, gradual approach.