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Hydrogen society on the island of Utsira

May 9, 2003, 01:00 CEST

Could hydrogen combined with wind power prove the best energy solution for remote communities? Hydro is involved in a pioneer project on the windswept island of Utsira on the Norwegian coast near Haugesund. This is a demonstration project showing how wind power and hydrogen can provide all the energy needed in a community, making it fully independent of fossil fuels.

This is the first full scale project of its kind in the world and is a barrier-breaking milestone in the development of green energy systems.

Utsira has a population of only 250, but in 2003 it will be the site of a major pioneering project in the field of energy. Now all the concessions and plans are ready, and the decisions have been taken - Hydro will set up a demonstration project utilizing wind power together with hydrogen to provide green energy.

The brief is simple: to ensure an adequate and stable supply of electricity from renewable sources to ten households on Utsira all year round.

Wind power alone would not be sufficient. The island can be ravaged by violent storms, but at other times there may be no wind at all. Wind turbines cannot be used in either of these circumstances. Besides demand will also vary. However, hydrogen provides excellent chemical energy storage, and can be used to store the energy produced by the wind turbines.

The combination of wind power and hydrogen

The idea is to use the excess energy from the windmills to produce hydrogen. Hydro's particular solution for Utsira is to erect a windmill that will be linked to a hydrogen production unit.

Hydrogen is produced by means of an electrolyser delivered by Hydro Electrolysers. Hydrogen is then used to produce electricity when wind cannot be used. To begin with a hydrogen-run generator will produce the additional electricity, but in the spring of 2004 a fuel cell will be installed which will provide electricity directly from hydrogen.

The energy plant shall be ready in January 2004. The digging work will start in June, and the two windmills will be built during August this year. The hydrogen plant will then be completed during the autumn.

A pioneering pilot project

"This is a very exciting full-scale project. Utsira will be a real-life presentation of the use of sustainable energy systems based on renewable energy," says Jørgen Rostrup, senior vice president Renewables and Hydrogen in Hydro.

"As this is a pilot plant we cannot expect it to be commercially viable, but it still has great value. The Utsira project will give us unique experience of building and operating a future-oriented plant. We are grateful for the enthusiasm and support we have met both from the inhabitants of Utsira and from the local and national authorities, and we are looking forward to working together with these people on realizing these plans."

Drawing on the breadth of Hydro's experience

The Utsira project is particularly exciting for Hydro as the company is able to draw on experience in several areas of operation.

Hydro is already one of the world's largest hydrogen producers and has over 80 years experience of hydrogen production and storage through its agricultural activities. As Norway's largest private electricity producer, Hydro also has experience of developing and running power plants. Oil operations on the North Sea have given Hydro experience of working in extreme weather conditions. The company also has a tradition of complying with stringent safety requirements, protection of nature and the environment, developing good technical solutions and ensuring long-term and profitable operations.