Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

Archive for the month “November, 2020”

Borssele 1 & 2 752 MW Wind Farm Operational

Delivered on time, on budget, in a record time of 8 months, despite pandemic. The mirror park Borssele 3 & 4 is under construction, but several turbines already produce electricity. Expected completion date early 2021. Borssele 1-4 will be (briefly) the largest offshore wind farm in the world.

In the Dutch part of the continental shelf there is enough potential for 70 GW or more. The Netherlands used to be a primary European natural gas exporter. Expect this to be replaced by large volumes of inexhaustible green hydrogen.

[] – Borssele 1 & 2 Fully Commissioned
[] – Video-documentaire windpark Borssele 1&2 (Dutch)
[] – Windpark Borssele

Read more…

Cost Comparison Nuclear – Offshore Wind

[source] Worldwide Nuclear Power Capacity Factors

Let’s do a cost comparison offshore wind-nuclear, based on the latest available data.

[deepresource] – UK Probably Opts for New Nuclear Power Station

Cost: €22.2 billion for 3.2 GW power. Factor in a capacity factor of 80% (see graph above) to arrive at 2.6 GW average power.

[deepresource] – The Cost of an Offshore Wind Turbine

The all-in cost of a 14 MW offshore wind turbine, including foundation and installation is €16.6 million. Assume that for these huge turbines a capacity factor of 0.60 applies. So you get on average 8.4 MW for €16.6 million.

You need 2600/8.4 = 310 of these turbines to match the nuclear power station above or €5.15 billion in total, which is 4 times cheaper (excl. cabling). Note that the cost of nuclear fuel is not included in this calculation, let alone the cost of getting rid of the spent fuel, let alone the staggering cost of a reprocessing plant (many billions).

That price advantage of a factor of 4 needs to be reduced to factor in intermittency and the partial need for storage. Not everything needs to be converted into hydrogen or pumped hydro. Excess supply can be used to charge seasonal storage of heat in large water volumes via heat pumps or to charge car batteries or “power walls” at home, via the price mechanism (electricity cheap if there is excess supply).

This back-of-an-envelope calculation is confirmed by a recent study by Lazard:

[deepresource] – Lazard – Renewable Energy Cheapest by Far

Offshore wind: 26-54 (39)
Nuclear: 129-198 (165)

Pushing nuclear energy in 2020 is like flogging a dead horse.

The Cost of an Offshore Wind Turbine

GE Haliade X 13 MW offshore wind turbine, currently tested in Rotterdam

For the analysis, the company estimated that the cost of a 10 MW turbine was USD 8 million, while a 12 MW and a 14 MW turbine would cost approximately USD 10.1 million and USD 12.3 million, respectively. Opting for a 14 MW turbine over 10 MW could thus result in higher costs of approximately USD 85 million, while a 14 MW turbine instead of a 12 MW unit could add almost USD 45 million to manufacturing costs.

In the case of foundations, Rystad Energy estimated that they typically cost between USD 3 million and USD 4 million each. Cost savings on foundations if 14 MW turbines would be used instead of the 10 MW ones could amount to more than USD 100 million for the developer, while USD 30 million to USD 50 million could be saved if the 12 MW type is replaced by the 14 MW.

Wind turbine installation costs are estimated to range between USD 0.5 million and USD 1 million, while the cost of foundation installation ranges from USD 1 million and USD 1.5 million per unit. Using the midpoint in each range, for a 1 GW project the implied savings surpass USD 50 million if using 14 MW instead of 10 MW units, according to the analysis, while potential savings are more than USD 20 million if 14 MW turbines are used over 12 MW.

Total cost 14 MW offshore wind turbine: 12.3 m + 3.5 m + 0.8 m = 16.6 m

[] – Rystad Energy: Less Is More if Using 14 MW Turbines

190 GE Haliade-X 13 MW Turbines for Doggerbank

The buoyant offshore wind market wants the biggest and most powerful turbines only. French-made GE 13 MW turbines, currently the largest in the world, are to be installed at the new UK Doggerbank project, that eventually will encompass 4.8 GW capacity.

[] – Dogger Bank to Debute GE-Haliade-X Technology
[] – Dogger Bank Wind Farm

[] – Siemens Gamesa reveals world’s largest wind turbine

The battle for size continues unabated. Siemens-Gamesa has announced its next model, the 14MW SG 14-222 DD offshore wind turbine. The race is expected to end at about 20 mW.

[] – Hoogspanning op de Noordzee

According to Shell, the wind energy potential of Doggerbank is 70-100 GW, 5 times Dutch peak. The Dutch have eyed the location to build an artificial hydrogen island, as it is cheaper to transport hydrogen than electricity to shore.

dogger island map north sea

And the Dutch want to use their part of Doggerbank for wind electricity generation as well:

[deepresource] – Energy Island(s) North Sea Taking Shape
[deepresource] – Danish Investors to Finance North Sea Energy Island
[deepresource] – Denmark Approves 2 Energy Islands and 6 GW Wind + H2

Massive Hydrogen Push Underway in Europe

Pasta factories on hydrogen in Italy, 1300 diesel locomotives that could be replaced by hydrogen ones in Germany, 100 MW electrolyzer under construction in Amsterdam and reconstruction of refineries in Rotterdam, replacing fossil fuel with hydrogen. In Europe the majority of minds, both at government and public level, is united in the push for the renewable energy transition and hydrogen will play an important role as a storage medium.

Not directly related to hydrogen, but the EU commission likely will introduce a very strict Euro-7 emission norm as of 2025, essentially eliminating new diesel and gasoline cars as of 2025:

[] – EU plan: Diesel and gasoline engines will be shot down in 2025

Kiss your old-school oil refinery good-bye.

It is exactly this unified combining of forces that destine Europe to become the first renewable energy and hydrogen superpower in the world.

[] – Hydrogen-powered trains could replace diesel engines in Germany,

[] – Mireo Plus decarbonises Europe’s railways
[] – Mireo Plus H – for a cleaner, emissions-free operation
[] – How hydrogen is being used to make pasta in Italy
[] – EU hydrogen platform
[deepresource] – European Hydrogen Backbone
[] – European emission standards

Read more…

Autonomous Racing

Designing solar cars was great fun for the students of the TU-Eindhoven (and still is), but there is a new challenge looming on the horizon: autonomous car racing. This week the Rollout Event | URE15 took place. The racing aspect is for fun, but the real purpose more serious, namely to get a grip onto autonomous driving. The URE15 is not a remote controlled play thingy, but a serious autonomous driving device.

[] – URE15: evolutie met revolutionair randje
[] – URE maakt eerste meters met autonome racewagen

TNO – Towards GW-Scale Electrolysis in 2025-2030

[] – TNO Hydrogen

Christiaan Huygens – Dutch Light


British author and historian of science Hugh Aldersey-Williams has written a biography about Christiaan Huygens. From an interview with Aldersey-Williams:

In “Dutch Light”, biographer Hugh Aldersey-Williams lets the facts speak. Based on all his achievements, he hoists mathematician, physicist and astronomer Christiaan Huygens on the shield more than three centuries after his death. “He was the greatest scientist in 17th century Europe, in the nearly eighty years between Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton”, “said the British author and physicist. “Galileo was the giant on whose shoulders Huygens stood, Newton overshadowed Huygens’ genius”. This is an unjust judgment of history, because Huygens’ achievements surpass that of Newton – the greatest British scientist of all time – in some important respects.

From Amazon:

Filled with incident, discovery, and revelation, Dutch Light is a vivid account of Christiaan Huygens’s remarkable life and career, but it is also nothing less than the story of the birth of modern science as we know it.

Europe’s greatest scientist during the latter half of the seventeenth century, Christiaan Huygens was a true polymath. A towering figure in the fields of astronomy, optics, mechanics, and mathematics, many of his innovations in methodology, optics and timekeeping remain in use to this day. Among his many achievements, he developed the theory of light travelling as a wave, invented the mechanism for the pendulum clock, and discovered the rings of Saturn – via a telescope that he had also invented.

A man of fashion and culture, Christiaan came from a family of multi-talented individuals whose circle included not only leading figures of Dutch society, but also artists and philosophers such as Rembrandt, Locke and Descartes. The Huygens family and their contemporaries would become key actors in the Dutch Golden Age, a time of unprecedented intellectual expansion within the Netherlands. Set against a backdrop of worldwide religious and political turmoil, this febrile period was defined by danger, luxury and leisure, but also curiosity, purpose, and tremendous possibility.

Following in Huygens’s footsteps as he navigates this era while shuttling opportunistically between countries and scientific disciplines, Hugh Aldersey-Williams builds a compelling case to reclaim Huygens from the margins of history and acknowledge him as one of our most important and influential scientific figures.

Summary importance Christiaan Huygens: telescopes, discovered rings of Saturn and its moon Titan, (bi)refringence and polarization of light, correct interpretation of light as a wave phenomenon, wave interference (both sound and light), accurate pendulum clocks, contributions in mathematical curves like cycloids, breakthroughs in mechanics like centripetal forces, impulse and elastic collisions, conservation of kinetic energy in mathematical equations, significant early contributions to the mathematics of probability, early concept of relativity of movement, organizer of European science as de facto founder of the French Academie des Sciences in Paris and first foreign member of the Royal Society in London. Huygens was the first to apply mathematical formulas to phenomena in physics and as such can be seen as the first theoretical physicist. Huygens was not a loner, like Newton and many others, but a European integrator of science, much like that other Dutchman Hendrik Lorentz would be around 1900. The Dutch background in both cases, meaning coming from a small country, located at the center of gravity of the three surrounding large European countries Britain, France and Germany, predisposes the Dutch as natural mediators. Huygens helped creating a civilized European scientific culture, where cooperation mattered, not nationality, paving the way for he Enlightenment. Furthermore, late in his life he wrote one of the first works of science fiction, as he speculated on life on other planets. He was the first to work on a combustion engine, used to drive the king’s fountains, fueled by gunpowder, an enterprise he (in cooperation with Leibniz and Papin) fortunately abandoned just in time as too dangerous. Huygens even anticipated the possibility of airplanes. Huygens had great illustrative skills, which enabled him to adequately express scientific ideas.

The Brit Hugh Aldersey-Williams does an admirable job in giving Huygens the place he deserves, next to other European giants like Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and of course Newton. His book breathes the love of science in the spirit of civilized international cooperation. It is unlikely that Aldersey-Williams is a Brexiteer. People like him make us confident that some day, after Johnson and Farage, Britain (England?) in some form will return to the European dinner table. Thank you for a few days of sublime reading pleasure!

Christiaan Huygens by Caspar Netscher, 1671

[] – Christiaan Huygens
[] – Christiaan Huygens Œuvres
[] – Christiaan Huygens
[] – Œuvres complètes de Christiaan Huygens
[] – Auteur Hugh Aldersey-Williams wil een herwaardering van deze Nederlandse wetenschapper: ‘Hij was beter dan Newton’
[] – Haagse wiskundige is te lang onderschat: ‘Christiaan Huygens was groter dan Newton’
[] – Stevin, Huygens and the Dutch republic
[] – Through the Magnifying Glass (book review)
[] – Was Christiaan Huygens de grootste uitvinder van de Gouden Eeuw? (contains many Dutch-language videos, not available on Youtube)

Read more…

Agrophotovoltaics – Lowering the Cost of Renewable Energy

Solar photo-voltaic power claims a lot of land. In the desert that is not a problem, but in populated areas that land needs to compete between energy and agricultural interests. Or does it? The German Fraunhofer Institute has been a global front-runner in promoting a dual use approach and as such increase the financial return for the landowner. It is possible to keep sheep under solar panels or harvest honey from flowers growing in between.

[] – Enel begins operations of Aurora PV plant in Minnesota
[] – Enel Green Power Promotes Sustainability At Solar Power Plants In US

European Hydrogen Backbone

Hydrogen backbone 2040

11 European gas infrastructure companies have drafted a plan to construct a European Hydrogen Backbone, in line with the renewable energy transition efforts of the European Union. Most pipelines already exist, but need to be retrofitted for the conversion from natural gas towards hydrogen.

From the executive summary:

In the transition to a net zero-emission EU energy system, hydrogen and biomethane will play a major role in a smart combination with renewable electricity, using Europe’s well-developed existing energy infrastructure. For hydrogen to develop to its full potential, there must be a tangible perspective towards developing a wellconnected European hydrogen market over time.

A rapid scale up of renewable power for direct electricity demand will also provide a basis for renewable green hydrogen supply, especially from the late 2020s onwards. In the medium to long term, most hydrogen will be renewable hydrogen. Yet before cheap renewable electricity has scaled up sufficiently, low carbon blue hydrogen will be useful to accelerate decarbonisation from the mid-2020s onwards. This low carbon hydrogen will partly be based on applying CCS to existing grey hydrogen production at industrial clusters.

Large-scale hydrogen consumption will require a well-developed hydrogen transport infrastructure. This paper presents the European Hydrogen Backbone (“the EHB”): a vision for a truly European undertaking, connecting hydrogen supply and demand from north to south and west to east. Analysing this for ten European countries (Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland), we see a network gradually emerging from the mid-2020s onwards. This leads to an initial 6,800 km pipeline network by 2030, connecting hydrogen valleys. The planning for this first phase should start in the early 2020s. In a second and third phase, the infrastructure further expands by 2035 and stretches into all directions by 2040 with a length almost 23,000 km. Likely additional routes through countries not (yet) covered by the EHB initiative are included as dotted lines in the 2040 map. Further network development is expected up to 2050. Ultimately, two parallel gas transport networks will emerge: a dedicated hydrogen and a dedicated (bio)methane network. The hydrogen backbone as presented in this paper will transport hydrogen produced from (offshore) wind and solar-PV within Europe and also allows for hydrogen imports from outside Europe.

European gas infrastructure consists of pipelines with different sizes, from 20 inch in diameter to 48 inch and above. The hydrogen backbone, mainly based on converted existing pipelines, will reflect this diversity. Converted 36- and 48-inch pipelines, commonly in use for long-distance transport of gas within the EU, can transport around 7 resp. 13 GW of hydrogen per pipeline (at lower heating value¹) across Europe, which provides an indication of the vast potential of the gas infrastructure to take up its role in the future zero-emission EU energy system. And this is not even the highest capacity technically possible; from our analyses, we have concluded that it is more attractive to operate hydrogen pipelines at less than their maximum capacity, leading to substantial savings on investment in compressors and on the cost of operating them, including their energy consumption.

Such a dedicated European Hydrogen Backbone (2040 layout) requires an estimated total investment of €27-64 billion based on using 75% of converted natural gas pipelines connected by 25% new pipeline stretches. These costs are relatively limited in the overall context of the European energy transition and substantially lower than earlier rough estimations. The relatively wide range in the estimate is mainly due to uncertainties in (location dependent) compressor costs.

The operational cost is lower than expected as well; the amount of electricity required is around 2% of the energy content of the hydrogen transported, taken over a transport distance of 1,000 km. So, while the European Hydrogen Backbone provides competition and security of supply, costs for transport of hydrogen account for only a small part of total hydrogen costs for end users. The levelised cost is estimated to be between €0.09-0.17 per kg of hydrogen per 1000 km², allowing hydrogen to be transported cost-effectively over long distances across Europe.

This paper concludes that the cost of such a European Hydrogen Backbone can be very modest compared to the foreseen size of the hydrogen markets. That is why we now propose to launch it as a ‘first mover’, facilitating developments on the supply and demand side. European gas infrastructure companies are ready to lead and to invest in hydrogen transport to facilitate a scaling up of hydrogen, thereby being part of the solution to create a climate neutral European energy system and a European market for hydrogen. The backbone should allow for access by all interested market parties under equal terms and conditions.

Enabling the creation of a European Hydrogen Backbone has multiple implications for policy making. In its recent Hydrogen Strategy, the European Commission has already announced that it aims to ensure the full integration of hydrogen infrastructure in the infrastructure planning, including through the revision of the Trans-European Networks for Energy and the work on the Ten-Year Network Development Plans (TYNDPs). Policy making on sustainable finance, and the review of the gas legislation for competitive decarbonised gas markets will also need to play their role in enabling the long-term investments in this key European infrastructure.

This European Hydrogen Backbone is an open initiative. We invite other gas infrastructure companies from across Europe and from adjacent geographies and our associations GIE and ENTSOG to join in the thinking, to further developing the plan and expanding it into a truly pan-European undertaking. We are also looking forward to discussing our initiative with stakeholders including policy makers and with initiatives on the supply and demand side, including Hydrogen Europe’s 2 * 40 GW electrolyser plan.

As European gas infrastructure companies, we fully support the European Green Deal and we are willing to play our part in facilitating the scale up of renewable and low carbon gas. We see the European Hydrogen Backbone as a critical piece of the puzzle.

Hydrogen backbone 2030. The Netherlands and its North Sea offshore wind potential will play an initializing role in kicking off the hydrogen era in Europe.

[] – European Hydrogen Backbone, original report (10 MB, pdf)
[] – European Hydrogen Backbone plan
[] – Gas infrastructure comp. present a European Hydrogen Backbone plan
[] – Clean hydrogen needs its own infrastructure

Thin Film Solar Efficiency Record of 25%

Thin film solar efficiency is catching up with traditional pv-solar. The coordinating University of Leuven in Belgium and partners within their PERCISTAND consortium have achieved an energy efficiency of 25 percent with a thin-film solar cell. Even higher efficiencies are in the cards, the aim is 30% in three years.

Estimations suggest that increased efficiency of photovoltaic (PV) appliances above the Shockley-Queisser single-junction limit is related to the creation of tandem devices. The EU-funded PERCISTAND project will focus on the development of innovative materials and processes for perovskite on chalcogenide tandem appliances. The project will focus on four-terminal tandem solar cell and module prototype testing on glass substrates. The goal is to obtain efficiency, stability and large-scale manufacturability for thin film PV that will be competitive with existing commercial PV technologies. The results of the project will support the EU in regaining predominance in thin film PV research and production.

[] – Breakthrough: thin-film solar cells generate as much energy as traditional solar cells for the first time
[] – Percistand consortium
[] – Horizon Europe
[] – Development of all thin-film PERovskite on CIS TANDem photovoltaics

Dutch Solar Sector

[] – Dutch technology for the solar energy revolution

Liquid Air Batteries

Organic Redox Flow Batteries

China Plans 800 MWh Vanadium Redox-Flow Battery

[] – World’s largest battery: 200MW/800MWh vanadium flow battery
[] – world’s largest energy storage battery in China
[Google Maps] – Rongke Power, Dalian, China

Lazard – Renewable Energy Cheapest by Far

Click to enlarge

This does NOT include renewable electricity storage cost.

[] – Levelized Cost of Energy and Levelized Cost of Storage – 2020
[] – Wind & Solar Are Cheaper Than Everything, Lazard Reports

Biomass Pyrolysis

Biomass pyrolysis is defined as a thermochemical process that undergoes either in complete absence of oxygen or in limited supply that gasification does not occur to an appreciable extent.

Biomass has a high carbon content, that can be burned with good conscience, as the biomass is formed from removing CO2 from the atmosphere first. Burning biomass is carbon neutral. On top of that it can be used for seasonal storage of energy, something solar and wind can’t deliver.

[] – Pyrolysis
[] – Biomass Pyrolysis
[] – Biomass
[] – Energy crop
[] – Miscanthus giganteus (70 MWh/ha annually)

Smil estimates that the average area-specific power densities for modern biofuels, wind, hydro and solar power production are 0.30 W/m2, 1 W/m2, 3 W/m2 and 5 W/m2, respectively (power in the form of heat for biofuels, and electricity for wind, hydro and solar)

So biofuels are energetically much less efficient than pv solar per m2, except of course, biofuels can be stored, a distinct advantage over wind and solar.

Read more…

Direct Borohydride Fuel Cells

Borohydride apparently can be used in a fuel cell directly, skipping the hydrolysis stage.

Fuel cells using borohydride as the fuel will be reviewed in this chapter. A direct borohydride fuel cell (DBFC) is a device that converts chemical energy stored in borohydride ion ( BH−4 ) and an oxidant directly into electricity by redox processes. DBFC has some attractive features such as high open circuit potential, low operational temperature, and high power density. Both electro-oxidation of BH−4 and electro-reduction of oxidant take place on a large variety of precious and non-precious materials. DBFCs share similarities in terms of electrode preparation methods, fuel cell system design, etc. with PEFCs, which have been developed more extensively. Therefore, in this chapter, fuel cell technology, particularly PEFC, will be first reviewed to better understand materials and components of DBFC. Then the chapter continues to discuss prominent features of DBFC, and finally points out potential future direction of DBFC research.

[] – Direct Borohydride Fuel Cells—Current Status, Issues, and Future Directions
[] – Anion Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (2018)
[] – Direct Borohydride Fuel Cells (DBFC) Technology (2011)

Sodium Borohydride as a Fuel for the Future

Recent overview article about NaBH4 as a hydrogen-source.

In a time of unprecedented change in environmental, geopolitical and socio-economic world affairs, the search for new energy materials has become a topic of great relevance. Sodium borohydride, NaBH4, seems to be a promising fuel in the context of the future hydrogen economy. NaBH4 belongs to a class of materials with the highest gravimetric hydrogen densities, which has been discovered in the 1940s by Schlesinger and Brown. In the present paper, the most relevant issues concerning the use of NaBH4 are examined. Its basic properties are summarised and its synthesis methods are described. The general processes of NaBH4 oxidation, hydrolysis, and monitoring are reviewed. A comprehensive bibliometric analysis of the NaBH4 publications in the energy field opens the discussion for current perspectives and future outlook of NaBH4 as an efficient energy/hydrogen carrier. Despite the observed exponential increase in the research on NaBH4 it is clear that further efforts are still necessary for achieving significant overchanges.

[] – Sodium borohydride as a fuel for the future

The Hydrolysis of NaBH4 with a Cobalt Catalyst


• The tablets based on NaBH4 have been employed as hydrogen generation materials.
• The kinetics of NaBH4 hydrolysis over different Co compounds has been studied.
• According to the Langmuir-Hinshelwood mechanism the kinetic data were analyzed.
• The observed reaction and adsorption constants for catalysts have been determined.
• The BH4‾ anion adsorption on catalyst is a key factor in NaBH4 hydrolysis.


Tablets on the basis of sodium borohydride and cobalt compounds (CoCl2·6H2O, Co(CH3COO)2·4H2O, Co3O4 and anhydrous CoSO4) have been studied as hydrogen generation materials. The kinetics of sodium borohydride hydrolysis upon contact of the tablets with water has been investigated. Adsorption and reaction constants have been determined for each of the catalysts using the Langmuir-Hinshelwood model which allowed us to estimate the contribution of BH4‾ adsorption to the overall rate of hydrogen generation. It was noted that the nature of the catalyst precursor has an influence not only on the specific surface area of the in situ forming catalytically active phase, the particle size of the catalyst, the degree of reduction of cobalt compounds by sodium borohydride but also on the adsorption of BH4‾ anions from the reaction medium on the catalyst surface.

[] – Hydrogen storage systems based on solid-state NaBH4/Co composite: Effect of catalyst precursor on hydrogen generation rate

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