Four European companies have presented a proposal to set up a massive PV manufacturing plant with a capacity of 2GW a year to serve the production of green hydrogen for the European Union’s Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI).

The project – dubbed ‘Silver Frog’ – was presented at the ‘hydrogen for climate action’ conference in Brussels. It would also include an unspecified volume of wind power, and provide hydrogen transported by gas pipelines for hard-to-decarbonise industries, such as steel and chemicals.

“Solar is crucial in delivering fully renewable electricity throughout Europe. The ‘Silver Frog’ project reveals how solar can facilitate the development of renewable hydrogen,” SolarPower Europe chief executive Walburga Hemetsberger said.

“Further, this project’s emphasis on the integration of PV manufacturing facilities sends a strong signal to the European Commission that any discussions surrounding renewable hydrogen will require a robust renewable industrial strategy.”

In the proposal, Belgium’s Hydrogenics Europe would supply the water electrolysis technology, Germany’s Meyer Burger would supply the solar PV manufacturing line, Hungary’s Ecosolifer would produce the modules and focus on heterojunction technology (HJT), while Denmark’s European Energy would act as the energy developer.

Over a period of eight years, the project is estimated to produce 800,000 tonnes of renewable hydrogen, and reduce 8m tonnes of CO2 emissions each year – approximately the CO2 footprint of the whole city of Brussels, SolarPower Europe claims. It would also create 6,000 jobs.

Solar power installations have undergone a revival in Europe last year, with 11,3GW installed (8.2GW in the EU alone), led by Germany, which added 2.95GW.

But European panel manufacturers despite years-long anti-dumping tariffs this decade have lost out against cheaper Chinese rivals, with the last big manufacturer – SolarWorld – finally succumbing in 2017.

SolarPower Europe hopes Europe’s manufacturing industry will have a come-back, in part by introducing new solar products, such as building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). Solar panels for hydrogen production could be another avenue to kick-start a manufacturing revival.

“The ‘Silver Frog’ project has the aim of helping to deliver the EU’s Green Deal, with a focus on hard-to-decarbonise sectors. The crucial element of our project is to develop a new European manufacturing capacity for solar PV cells and modules,” said Thomas Hengst, head of global sales at Meyer Burger.

“The new technology has been developed in Europe and has the potential to establish sustainable and globally-competitive solar cell and module production thanks to its very high efficiency.

“By focusing on the production and transportation of renewable hydrogen, we can address existing and future demand, as well as offering the concept as an integrated solution.”

Under the IPCEI umbrella, the EU is bringing together companies that pursue projects of strategic importance to Europe, and tries to foster joint investments by public authorities and industries from several European countries. IPCEI projects accepted by the European Commission satisfy EU state aid rules.

The IPCEI on hydrogen next to the 2GW solar plan, includes seven other proposals, all of which aim to develp the hydrogen sector, with projects surrounding the generation, transportation and innovation of green hydrogen.

The final selection for the IPCEI will take place in 2020.

Recharge has published an exclusive comprehensive special report on the future of Green Hydrogen. Download a sample here.