Another week, another step forward for European renewables dominance.
This week’s big news is the unveiling of a major Irish project. The ‘Hydrogen Valley’ project has been put together by a consortium that includes energy giant SSE Renewables, Port of Galway, NUI Galway, and CIE Group.
Representing a first for Ireland, the Valley will create an ecosystem that links hydrogen research, production, and distribution with various end-users such as transport and industry.
The consortium’s intention is to develop an initial flagship project at Galway Harbour, for the on-site production and supply of clean green hydrogen fuel for public and private vehicles.
This will include buses and trucks and will deliver a multi-modal, zero-emission, renewable hydrogen transport hub that can be easily replicated across Ireland.
Expected to be fully operational by 2024, Ireland’s Hydrogen Valley was announced by the Irish Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, and is surely another project for the history books.
Indeed, Europe has contributed an enormous amount towards renewables development over the past century (and a bit). Major investment into hydrogen energy shows just how far renewables have come.
Simply getting wind, solar and hydro (the three basic lynch-pins of green energy) ‘off the ground’ has taken such a long time. But now that they are established as serious contributors to the energy mix, we can look forward to seeing greater diversity in the global energy portfolio.
Let’s take a quick look at how Europe has progressed over the past 150 years…
1878 – In a quiet North-Eastern corner of England, the world’s first hydroelectric power scheme was invented before the twentieth century even began. Developed by industrialist Sir William Armstrong, the modest scheme powered a single arc lamp in his private art gallery.
1920 – a major leap forward as Frenchman George Darrieus invented the Darrieus wind turbine, a type of turbine still in use today. Also known as the ‘eggbeater’, the Darrieus is a low-torque, high-speed device that enabled the world to convert wind energy into electricity for the very first time.
1991 – renewables developments stalled for the best part of the century as fossil fuels dominated but the early 1990s saw a renaissance in creative and intelligent design. This was kickstarted by the world’s first offshore wind farm in Vindeby, Denmark. Powering 3,000 Danish homes, the farm proved to the world that renewables could be a serious consideration.
1992 – Wales joined the green revolution by installing the country’s first onshore farm. Managed and built by renewable pioneers Dulas, the Cemmaes Road wind farm now powers 9,000 homes.
2003 – with the ‘new’ technology now firmly established as a reliable source of energy, the UK took the plunge into offshore with the first British offshore wind farm in North Hoyle.
2014 – after fits and starts over the past two decades, wind energy had finally started injecting significant amounts into the European grid. By 2014, turbines across the continent were contributing 20-30% of the annual demand.
2017 – Nearing the end of the 2010s, solar had become the fastest growing renewable technology with adoption levels seventy times higher than they were just a decade previous.
2020 – with all of the renewable additions to the energy mix, it was only a matter of time before records were smashed. Easter Monday 2020 saw the UK experience the greenest day on record with wind, solar, and nuclear making up 80% of the power mix. At the same time, the carbon intensity of electricity (the measure of CO2 emissions per unit of electricity consumed) dropped to 39g CO2, the lowest figure in history.
2021 – with renewables firmly in the ascendancy, coal-powered energy plants had begun to close all over Europe. In 2021, Portugal closed the doors on its last coal-powered plant, meaning that the country became one of the global firsts to wave ‘adeus’ to the black stuff.
2022 onwards – tidal lagoons, floating solar, molten salt reactors, static compensators… who knows what the next big success will be. It’s all being explored and there are so many ‘firsts’ still up for grabs.
Clearly, Europe has some appetite for driving renewable growth. Each advancement is a huge achievement for individual nations but it’s also the case that each advancement helps to evolve the industry more broadly.
This will also be the fate of the Galway Hydrogen Valley. CIE group chief executive Lorcan O’Connor said that “what we develop and learn in this innovative partnership in Galway could be transformative for sustainability in the transport sector as a whole.”
This is the key to us continuing to accelerate our ability to harness clean energy across the planet. Experimenting, maximizing our localized resources, and sharing our knowledge.
More details of Ireland’s Hydrogen Valley are scheduled to be released over the coming weeks. The project is sure to inspire the Emerald Isle’s neighbors and will certainly see hydrogen technology mature to its fullest current potential.