Instead of forwarding the wind power to Bavaria, farmers in North Friesland (Germany) prefer to convert it to hydrogen in the wind farm and use it as fuel for their cars and buses.
The North Frisians (Germany) have always been at the forefront of wind power. As early as 1923, the first wind power plant was built not far from Husum. Because they operated their agricultural machinery for threshing and chopping and wanted to light their farms electrically instead of petroleum, eight farmers from Pobüll had thrown their savings together, built a 28-meter steel tower, and placed a 12-meter-diameter wind turbine on top. This drove a “Herkules” dynamo from the Herkules brand, which generated 13 kilowatts of electricity per hour with a fresh breeze. This operated eight electric motors and fed a lead battery that could be used to supply 500 light bulbs with energy even when the village was down – for up to two weeks.
100 years later, a Nordic pioneering act is emerging again in the region. In Niebüll, 40 kilometers north of Pobüll, work began on Germany’s largest mobility project, which relies on green hydrogen generated by wind power. Instead of the long-distance network, the electricity produced in the older wind farms in Bosbüll, Langenhorn, Dörpum, and Reußenköge ends up in large electrolyzers that use it to generate hydrogen. If the wind blows properly, around 220 tons of hydrogen could be generated each year. The precious material is also to be used on the spot: Two new hydrogen filling stations for cars and two city buses with fuel cell drives are currently being built in Niebüll and Husum.
The initiator of the 18 million euro project and operator of the “E-Farm” is, of course, farmers from the region. The two environmentally-motivated electricity farmers Heinrich Gärtner and Ove Petersen launched the medium-sized company GP Joule, which now operates internationally as a system provider for integrated energy solutions from wind, sun, and biomass – and electromobility in their home region advances. After the construction of wind and solar parks, they now deal intensively with hydrogen technology.
Added value and jobs in the region
“To achieve the climate goals in transport, heating, and industry, we have to use renewable energies in all sectors – and convert a large part of the solar and wind power into hydrogen in the future,” says GP Joule co-founder Petersen. And best of all where the solar and wind power is generated. This is also important to increase public acceptance for wind power and the “asparagus” of the landscape with the huge wind turbines on the North Sea coast, emphasizes his speaker and project manager E-Farm, Andre Steinau, in an interview with EDISON: “With generation, There is still nothing to be gained from primary energy in a region alone, ”he says, referring to the coal-fired power plants in Lusatia: “The energy produced there drained off and hardly created any added value in the region itself” – only deep scars in the landscape. Steinau: “That can’t happen to us in North Friesland.”
The only problem is: the electricity demand on the North Sea coast is significantly lower than in industrial areas such as NRW or Baden-Württemberg. Even if most electric cars are now in the North Frisia district, measured by the total number of vehicle registrations: about four times as much as the national average. However, their range is limited: “It is usually not enough for the route to Hamburg and back, says Steinau, who therefore exchanged his BMW i3 for a Hyundai Nexo fuel-cell car:” Since then I’ve been driving much more relaxed. “
Transport Minister bears half of the cost
The GP Joule Group’s idea of building a hydrogen-based mobility network quickly found support. In a very short time, 19 private investors (including many farmers) were found who were ready to invest larger sums in the 16 million euro project E-Farm and thus create regional added value and jobs. Banks and savings banks from North Frisia contributed 4.4 million euros. But there were also supporters outside the region: Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer made eight million euros out of his budget. Because part of the money is used to buy two fuel cell buses for local transport.
The network is to be ready this year, the first tons of green hydrogen is to be produced between Husum and Niebüll and transported by tank wagon to the two petrol stations. Under ideal conditions, Steinau calculates, the wind turbines could produce around 3000 hours of electricity a year and the five electrolyzers could generate 219 tons of hydrogen from them. should either be used in biogas plants. At the Bosbüll site, it will heat the houses and courtyards of the village with 200 inhabitants. The bottom line is that the operators want to achieve a plant efficiency of 85 percent.
Hyundai wants to deliver vehicles
However, the E-Farm only pays off if there are as many buyers for the green hydrogen as quickly as possible. Sure, the two buses will take part off. But cars and vans that convert hydrogen into traction current in fuel cells are still rare in Germany. Mercedes-Benz recently announced that it would soon stop producing the GLC Fuel Cell. And the Audi concept car h-Tron from 2016 has become just as quiet as the power-to-gas plant in Werlte in Lower Saxony, where Audi has been producing synthetic natural gas for the A4 and A5 g-Tron models with wind energy since 2013. Cars with fuel cells can currently only deliver Hyundai and Toyota.
Project manager Steinau is nevertheless confident that a larger fleet of vehicles with this technology will be on the road in North Friesland next year. Hyundai had promised to deliver a larger number of vehicles. He hopes for additional momentum from the new Toyota Mirai, which is due to come to Germany in the coming year. A fleet of 100 hydrogen vehicles is targeted in the region.
However, operating the cars is not a cheap pleasure: Steinau reveals that the green hydrogen is to be sold at the two petrol stations for 10 euros per kilo. The distribution costs alone are estimated at six to eight euros per kilo. Also, there would be production costs of between three and five euros. His Hyundai Nexo can travel about 100 kilometers with one kilo of hydrogen. With a battery car like the Hyundai Kona Elektrik, he would have to expect electricity costs of only about six euros for the route.
But if it were just a matter of costs, the first wind power plant in Pobüll would certainly not have gone online 100 years ago: in the district town, petroleum lamps had to be used for over ten years.