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Utsira - a hydrogen community show room

September 11, 2003, 13:00 CEST

The island of Utsira west of Karmøy is the site of Hydro's demonstration project to show how the combination of wind and hydrogen can ensure a reliable supply of energy and make the community completely independent of fossil fuels.

Could wind power in combination with hydrogen offer the best energy solution for remote areas? Utsira will give the answer to this question. Hydro is currently completely the first milestone as it starts operation of the windmills.

The Utsira project is the first full-scale combined wind power and hydrogen plant, and is a pioneering step in the work to develop renewable energy systems based on hydrogen.

This spectacular, wind-swept island is home to around 250 persons. Ten households will be linked to the autonomous electricity net, which will provide renewable energy from wind power and hydrogen.

The objective of the project is to show how the combination of wind power and hydrogen can ensure a stable supply of electricity. One of the challenges of renewable energy sources is that electricity supply is periodical – solar power cannot be produced at night, and windmills stand still when there is not enough wind.

On Utsira, periods of optimal wind conditions will give a significant surplus of power. This will be used to produce hydrogen, which will be used as fuel in a hydrogen engine/fuel cell that will again supply electricity when the wind mills are still.

Exciting pilot project

“This is an incredibly exciting pilot project in full scale,” says Jørgen Rostrup, senior vice president for Hydro’s unit Renewables and Hydrogen. “Utsira will be a showroom demonstrating how we can create sustainable energy systems based on renewable energy and hydrogen.”

Hydro is leading the project, which has a cost frame of NOK 40 million. The German wind turbine company Enercon is also a partner in the project, and the supplier of the wind turbines, net-stabilizing equipment and the control system. Norsk Hydro Electrolysers will deliver the hydrogen plant, including electrolysers and the hydrogen storage facility. Haugeland Kraft is the net owner for the ten households in the project, and has signed an agreement with the project on the handling of electricity supply for customers and the use of the ordinary net.

The Utsira project has been given valuable support from Enova, the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority and the Research Council of Norway, all of whom wish to demonstrate the opportunities that arise when renewable energy is combined with hydrogen.

According to plan, the demonstration of the new, autonomous energy plant on Utsira will start up during the first quarter of next year, and the fuel cell will be installed next summer. The demonstration project will run until the end of 2005.

Local support

“The project has been well received by the local community, which is of course an essential factor in the project,” says Pål Otto Eide, project manager for the Utsira project in Hydro Energy.

The Archaeological Museum in Stavanger carried out excavations on the site in the spring, and found a 9,000 year old Stone Age settlement – the oldest in Rogaland.

The settlement is unique with stones laid in a way that has not been found before in Norway, and which do not seem to have been disturbed. Hydro changed the position of the hydrogen plant in order to preserve this find for the future.

Over the summer, the necessary infrastructure – roads, water, electricity supply and the foundations for the two windmills – has been installed. The objective was to set up the mills before the autumn brings stormier weather. One of the wind mills will supply the autonomous system, and the other will produce power for the market. Surplus power from the wind mill linked to the autonomous system will also be sold to the net.


“The most innovative aspect of this project is the way it puts it all together in a system,” says Eide. “One of the challenges is the number of interfaces between the autonomous system and the rest of the net system. We have to find solutions that are as profitable as possible and that can be used in other similar systems at a later stage. We know that the demand for electricity varies both through the year and through the day. All these variations have to be met despite the fact that the wind is unpredictable.”

He also points out that the hydrogen engine and the fuel cell are the only components that the partners Hydro and Eneron have no experience of. One of the challenges in earlier hydrogen projects has been delays caused by problems with fuel cell deliveries.

“So we are pleased that we are now using hydrogen in two independent systems for electricity production on Utsira. This will reduce the risk of customers in the autonomous system finding their electricity supply unstable and unable to meet demand at all times. An agreement has also been signed with the net owner and the local energy company Haugaland Kraft on dealing with any such problems on an ad hoc basis.”

Picture gallery

Download the PDF link and use the arrow keys on your keyboard to click through the extensive pictorial documentation showing how the wind mills were erected on Utsira.


  • Hydro Energy is the client and project manager
  • Hydro’s project organization Hydro Technology and Projects is responsible for the development, contracts and coordination of technical solutions
  • Hydro Energy’s power production department will be responsible for day-to-day operations of the whole plant. This unit has almost 100 years experience of power production
  • Norsk Hydro Electrolysers, which has around 75 years experience of water electrolysis, will supply the wholly automatic electrolyser and the hydrogen storage facility, and will be responsible for the operation of the autonomous hydrogen system


  • Start of the pre-project:  January 2002
  • Concession for the plant:  April 2003
  • Main contracts signed:  April 200
  • Construction start:  June 2003
  • Start-up of windmills:  September 2003
  • Start-up of hydrogen plant:  First quarter 2004
  • Start-up of demonstration plant: Second quarter 2004
  • Implementation of fuel cell:  July 2004

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