The world’s first offshore wind-powered hydrogen production unit is set to be launched off France following tests on land by the technology’s developer Lhyfe.

The Sealhyfe hydrogen production facility, built around a Plug Power electrolyser, will be connected to the FloatGen floating wind prototype being operated by BW Ideol at the Ecole Centrale de Nantes (ECN) SEM-REV test site some 20km off the coast of Brittany.

The pilot H2 unit, which is anchored around 1km from the floating wind turbine – in operation since 2018 – and wired into an underwater hub, is to run for 12 months as part of the field-proof programme.

“We wanted to take up a major technological challenge, to prove – by producing hydrogen at sea for the first time – that it is possible to do it as of today,” said Lhyfe CEO Matthieu Guesné.

“By paving the way for the mass production of renewable hydrogen at sea, Sealhyfe is fully in line with the EU’s strategy to deploy an offshore hydrogen chain and wishes to help build the energy sovereignty of countries.”

BW Ideol CEO Paul de la Guérivière said: “Lhyfe’s project is an important and much needed step towards the development of integrated and autonomous renewable power production systems, using floating wind and green hydrogen in this specific instance. Developing such solutions is essential to accelerate the energy transition.

“Being the floating wind asset owner, we look forward to studying all aspects of the interaction between the wind turbine and the hydrogen production system. This added return on experience will further contribute to BW Ideol’s unique preparedness for the development and execution of future commercial-scale deployments.”

Sealhyfe has the capacity to generate up to 400kg of green hydrogen a day, equivalent to 1MW of power, according to Lhyfe, which expects to be producing some 3GW from offshore wind “by 2030-2035”.

“This offshore pilot site meets all the necessary conditions to validate the offshore hydrogen production technology before large-scale industrial deployment, aiming first and foremost at demonstrating the reliability of an electrolyser at sea,” said Guesné

Jean-Baptiste Avrillier, director of ECN, added: “This ambitious project confirms the role of our SEM-REV site in accelerating the development of renewable marine energies and the active contribution of the school to meet the challenges of energy transition.”

FloatGen, which flies a 2MW Vestas turbine, produced almost 13GWh in its first two years at sea. The unit, built as part of an EU technology demonstration programme, is slated to operate through to 2024.

The combination of floating wind and hydrogen production has attracted the interest a number of leading of major developers. One of the first schemes will be the Dolphyn project being built by Engie-owned Tractebel with engineers ODE and consultancy ERM that aims channel 2MW output from the 50MW Kincardine array off Scotland to produce hydrogen that would be pumped in to oil industry capital Aberdeen from 2024.

Three “hydrogen focused” floating wind projects totalling 2.8GW of generation also emerged recently as winners from the clearing process of the giant ScotWind seabed leasing round.