Å Energi plans to build its first hydrogen production plant at Kongsberg, Norway, adjacent to the Pikerfoss hydropower plant.

Starting with a pilot production facility at Kongsberg, Å Energi could become a major producer of hydrogen in Southern Norway.

“Hydrogen is of great interest to us. We are well positioned to play an important role in a future market for hydrogen,” says Jan Tønnessen, Strategic Advisor Business Development at Å Energi – one of Norway’s largest energy utilities.

In February, Å Energi announced plans to build its first hydrogen production plant at Kongsberg, Norway, adjacent to the Pikerfoss hydropower plant. Operational in 2025, the pilot plant will produce 280 tons of hydrogen annually.

Hydropower plants built in connection with dams and reservoirs, can opt to produce electricity when prices are high, and store the water when prices are low. In contrast, run-of-river hydropower plants are continuously producing electricity even when prices are low. The hydrogen business case suggests that electricity should be used to produce hydrogen whenever hydrogen can be sold at a higher value than the electricity needed to produce it.

“The combination of hydropower and hydrogen is very interesting to Å Energi. We have 70 hydropower plants in our portfolio, of which half are run-of-river plants. From these, we have identified 20-25 that are well suited for hydrogen production. They have the right location and ample space for building a hydrogen factory,” says Tønnessen.

Any Å Energi hydrogen facility can easily connect to the grid, as they would be located in conjunction with a powerplant that is already connected. With no waiting in line for grid connection, Å Energi can move faster than most other players.

“Our business is electrons, not hydrogen. We need to learn more about the hydrogen industry; how to build and operate a hydrogen factory, and how to market and sell hydrogen. This is of course a new market for us. It is practically a non-existing market in all of Norway,” says Tønnessen.

Å Energi aspires to be a future dominant producer of hydrogen in Southern Norway. Based on geographical locations, the utility can produce hydrogen from Buskerud County to the border between the Agder and Rogaland counties.

“Due to costs, a rule of thumb is that hydrogen should not be transported more than two hours. With this in mind, Å Energi can deliver hydrogen to Stavanger in the west, to Oslo in the east, and to Highway 134 in the north. So effectively, we can offer hydrogen to the entire Southern Norway market,” says Tønnessen.

Å Energi believes that hydrogen will play an important role in three hard-to-electrify industries: Large ships, heavy transport, and construction.

“Batteries cannot power large ships, so hydrogen is needed. Semi-trailers can use batteries, but they should not wait for hours to charge if they can run more efficiently on hydrogen. And heavy machinery and vehicles in the construction business should also be able to operate for 12-hour shifts, without standing idle while charging,” says Tønnessen.

Å Energi estimates a potential production of hydrogen of 500 – 600 MW from their run-of-river plant. This translates to approximately 50,000 – 60,000 tons hydrogen a year.

“We plan to position ourselves as a key player as the market develops,” says Tønnessen.

Å Energi at EU Hydrogen Week. Left-right: Tanja Erichsen (Agder H2 Network), Jakob Hovet (Å Energi), Jan Tønnessen (Å Energi) and Eirik Melaaen (Norwegian Energy Partners).

April 18th 2024

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