German renewables developer BayWa r.e. and its Dutch subsidiary GroenLeven have signed a contract with the Netherland’s biggest energy network company Alliander to study how hydrogen production linked to an adjacent 50MW solar plant could reduce grid congestion.

The SinneWetterstof hydrogen pilot project in the Northern Dutch province of Friesland is expected to be operational by late 2021, and will test how local green hydrogen production via electrolysis would match the generation profile of the already-operating solar farm.

“This hydrogen pilot project will be one of the first that is powered by an adjacent solar farm and optimised to mitigate grid issues,” said Manfred Groh, strategy manager for corporate strategy, energy policy and sustainability at BayWa r.e.

The smart deployment of electrolysers could help reduce the need to invest in grids, enable the installation of more renewable plants and ultimately support the global energy transition, the developer reckons.

BayWa r.e. is a unit of German trading giant BayWa Group.

The project comes in the wake of the EU’s recently launched hydrogen strategy that targets the installation of 6GW of renewable electrolyser capacity by 2024.

Alliander is looking more broadly at addressing the problem of rising regional grid congestion. The partnership with BayWa r.e. aims at helping it to identify ways to ease pressure on the grid to accommodate growing demand, alongside wider grid expansion plans.

“The pilot project in Oosterwolde provides the opportunity to gain experience with the application of an electrolyser regarding control, controllability and safety,” Alliander project leader Ben Tubben said.

“We also want to investigate how the entire hydrogen chain works, which agreements must be made with stakeholders, and which laws and regulations are necessary.”

BayWa r.e. and GroenLeven earlier this year built the largest floating solar plant outside of China in the Netherlands. They will work on the leasing of the installation, operation and monitoring of the hydrogen pilot project.

“Locating a hydrogen electrolyser at a solar farm allows us to gather invaluable insights into decentral and renewable hydrogen production as a storable form of energy that could significantly reduce grid congestion,” said Willem de Vries, project manager large projects at GroenLeven.

“In addition to showing how an electrolyser can follow the power production of a solar plant, we will also be testing the optimum power ratio between an electrolyser and a solar farm.”