Spanish renewables developer Acciona is leading a pioneering €6m ($7.25m) government-backed project that aims to build what would be the world’s first green hydrogen plant powered by floating wind and PV technologies at sea.

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The OceanH2 project, which will be based around Swedish outfit Hexicon’s twin-headed floating wind units and open-sea solar installations powering onboard electrolysers, will explore “different implementation scenarios” for an offshore hybrid electricity generation system, factoring in the emerging hydrogen production, storage and distribution supply chain.

Kicking off with laboratory-scale test of various concepts carried out by Wunder Hexicon, a company jointly owned by Hexicon and Spanish outfit WunderSight, the three-year project will be developed in six autonomous communities of the European country – Madrid, the Canary Islands, Andalusia, Cantabria, Navarra and Catalonia – to “guarantee technological synergies and national scientific capacities”.

“There are two main merits to using floating wind to produce hydrogen offshore in our view,” Hexicon's incoming CEO Marcus Thor said to Recharge in an exclusive interview.

“First, of course, that being offshore there is limitless water [for use in the electrolysis process that produces hydrogen]; and second, that floating wind plants could function with no connection to the mainland, producing hydrogen for offshore loading onto shuttle tankers for onward transport to industry and also for use in the future as fuel for green shipping.

“And this would get a project out of a pressures of power pricing. The need for stable electricity prices is removed.“

Acciona, in a statement, said: “The knowledge obtained with this project may be transferred to areas of application and markets not contemplated to date, achieving, in addition to an increase in the competitiveness of the participating companies, greater sustainability in the sector.

“This will favour both job creation and the mobilisation of future investments to implement the innovative results of the project in the market.

“To facilitate the subsequent technological development process and its introduction on the market, all phases of the project will be based on strict technical and economic requirements.”

The project, which is supported by Spain’s Ministry of Science, Innovation & Universities under the aegis of a €70m R&D programme, will also involve contractors including Redexis, Ariema, TSI,and BlueNewables, as well as twelve research centres in the country.

Once seen an experimental technology, floating wind is gathering speed in its industrialisation and is increasingly being looked at for utility-scale standalone projects in the world’s major maritime regions, as well as as part of hybrid concepts using other renewables technologies such as floating PV and wave power.

Hexicon currently has pure-play floating wind developments underway off Korea with oil giant Shell, as well as in South Africa and Scotland, but this is its first hybridised project – though the Swedish company's original offshore energy design incorporated wind, wave and solar technologies.

Floating wind markets are on the verge of explosive growth globally, with recent analysis from UK-based low carbon advisory body the Carbon Trust calculating over 70GW of floating wind could be turning by 2040 – a near-1,000-fold expansion of the current global fleet – as international supply chains take shape to support development of commercial-scale projects around the world.

DNV, in its latest Energy Transition Outlook, forecasts some 260GW of floating wind turning worldwide by 2050, but hinges on the sector reducing levellised cost of energy to €40-60/MWh ($50-75/MWh) from levels today that are three times as high.