A hydrogen fuel cell will supply zero-carbon electricity and heat to the team building the world’s longest power interconnector in what’s claimed as a global first for the construction industry by contractor Siemens Energy.

The hydrogen system will deliver off-grid clean energy to construction operations at the UK onshore end of the 765km, 1.4GW Viking Link interconnector with Denmark, removing the need for temporary diesel generators during work to build a converter station for the giant subsea line.

The hydrogen fuel cell will supply 250kVA of power for 20 cabins used in the construction village at the site in Lincolnshire, eastern England. Waste heat from the fuel cell will be used to provide hot water to drying room at the site, with a 216kWh battery ensuring uninterrupted supply, said Siemens Energy.

The hydrogen used to power the fuel cell could initially be produced using conventional generation sources, but Siemens Energy said it is in the process of sourcing green hydrogen from renewables to take over.

Once green hydrogen supply is in place, the fuel cell will reduce CO 2 emissions at the site by a ton a week, said the project team, which claimed to be showing for the first time that such a system can “viably replace diesel”.

Steve Scrimshaw, vice president, Siemens Energy UK & Ireland said: “In order to get the hydrogen economy moving we need to create a market, and it is small projects, such as this, which will increase the demand for green hydrogen, providing a pipeline of work for the supply chain.

“We have 30 years to reach net zero and at that point, we won’t be able to use things like diesel to power a generator.”

Hydrogen is seen as playing a vital role in the energy transition thanks to its potential to push decarbonisation beyond the power industry into sectors such as heating and transport.

The CEO of Siemens Energy – the newly-formed energy-focused spin-off of the German industrial giant – said this week that hydrogen would be an important future revenue stream for the company, once pilot and demonstrator projects prove their worth.

The £1.8bn ($2.2bn) Viking Link, a joint project by Britain's National Grid and Danish electricity system operator Energinet, is due to be completed in 2023 and enable the transfer of massive levels of green power between the UK and southern Jutland in Denmark.