Poland wants to build a ‘hydrogen highway’ to transport future offshore wind energy from the Baltic Sea in the North to industrial and consumer centres in the South of the country, climate and environment minister Michal Kurtyka said at a panel during the digital WindEnergy Hamburg conference.

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The Eastern European country also plans to build up 2GW in electrolyser capacity to produce green hydrogen from renewable energy, and is planning the development of its offshore wind sector in parallel with the creation of a hydrogen economy.

The council of ministers in Warsaw – the Polish cabinet – has recently approved a long-awaited Offshore Wind Act, which the government expects to also pass in parliament at the beginning of next year, Kurtyka revealed. As in a draft presented earlier this year, the legislation contains a 5.9GW target for wind at sea by 2030, and an 8-11GW target corridor for 2040.

Offshore and H2 sister strategies

“I think that the scope [of offshore wind development] will be unlimited once we are able also to make sure that large scale storage is available. In this regard, a sister strategy for offshore wind is hydrogen. We must move both tracks in parallel,” the minister said at a panel on “Deploying large offshore volumes to deliver climate neutrality”.

But Kurtyka added that great part of Poland’s industry and power consumption are located in the South, while offshore wind will be produced in the Baltic Sea to the North.

“So we need to find the best way of transporting this energy from North to South. We have announced in our strategy that we are envisaging to have a North-South hydrogen highway, which will connect [offshore wind to] this industrial consumption.”

Power grid or hydrogen pipelines?

It is still unclear, whether the government will opt for strengthening already existing north-south power transmission lines and then produce hydrogen locally adjacent to southern industrial centres, or rather “build a completely new system dedicated to hydrogen,” the minister said.

Poland currently is developing a natural gas pipeline system within the country that will be linked to the Baltic Pipe network that from late 2022 on is slated to transport gas from Norway to Denmark and Poland in order to become less dependent on Russian gas.

The government is verifying whether the gas grid in the making could partially be used to transport hydrogen in the future as well, Kurtyka said.

“But we are also aware of technical difficulties. It is not possible to fill existing gas pipelines completely with hydrogen. There is a threshold. It will depend on technicalities.”

While Poland is about to embark on its own offshore wind journey, the country already has 10,000 jobs in the offshore wind sector, as Polish companies cater for international projects.

“Poland is the only country with great offshore wind competence without a single offshore wind farm,” the minister joked but added the government estimates that jobs in the sector could swell to 70,000 in coming years if the sector takes off as planned.

“We are working actively with the industry, we have six working groups with hundreds of people, who are working on a Polish offshore wind sector deal. We have also a hydrogen strategy, which is ongoing in parallel, with a Polish hydrogen sector deal coming together.”