Profits at Vattenfall rose last year as the Swedish utility added new wind power capacity, in particular the 407MW Horns Rev 3 offshore wind farm in the Danish part of the North Sea.

Underlying operating profit for Wind amounted to SKr4.2bn ($439m), an increase of SKr0.4bn, helping to push underlying profit for all of Vattenfall 26% higher last year to SKr25.10bn.

The company’s net profit last year rose by 24% to SKr14.86bn when compared to 2018.

“We inaugurated our largest wind farm, Horns Rev 3, at the same time that we phased out large coal-fired plants,” chief executive Magnus Hall said, adding that the utility closed the Ringhals 2 nuclear plant in Sweden according to plan.

“In the Netherlands we had the winning tender for Hollandse Kust Zuid 3&4 (about 750MW). We will develop and operate this project together with the first stage, Hollandse Kust Zuid 1&2, entirely without subsidies.”

All Hollandse Kust South projects combined will have capacity of approximately 1.5GW and thereby annual electricity generation in the same size range as a nuclear power reactor, Hall added. The projects will successively start to operate in early 2023, Hall said during a webcast.

Vattenfall last year also started construction on the 605MW Kriegers Flak project in the Danish part of the Baltic Sea, which is slated to be operational at the end of next year.

The company has earmarked 70% of its investment this year and next, or SKr25bn, for the wind power sector.

Wind power output through the opening of new wind farms rose to 9.7 terawatt hours last year, up from 7.8TWh in 2018. That still was a far cry from Vattenfall's production of nuclear power that reached 53.3TWh in 2019, or that of hydro power (35.7TWh) or fossil-based electricity 31.1TWh.

Nevertheless, the utility advanced somewhat on its path to wind itself off fossil fuels.

Vattenfall closed the Reuter C coal fired- power plant in Berlin, and at the end of last year shut down its last remaining coal-fired power station in the Netherlands, the 650MW Hemweg 8 plant, after the Dutch Senate recently passed a law banning the use of coal for electricity generation by 2030.

The company is compensated for having to close the power plant early. In the future, the plant site is slated to function as a hub for fossil-free heat and power production as well as for transit and storage of alternative fuels such as hydrogen gas and synthetic kerosene.

Also in the Netherlands, Vattenfall through its Dutch subsidiary Nuon, and together with Dutch gas distributor Gasunie and Norwegian oil major Equinor, is converting one out of three units at its largest gas-fired power plant, the 1.3GW Magnum plant in Eemshaven, to run on hydrogen by 2023.

The hydrogen will at first be so-called 'blue hydrogen' that is to be produced from Norwegian natural gas, with the resulting carbon emissions being captured, transported and injected into depleted Norwegian oil fields (or existing ones to enhance oil recovery).

In the long term, Vattenfall said, green hydrogen - produced from electrolysis with renewable power - will be the preferred solution for Magnum.

The main by-product from hydrogen combustion is water vapour.

UPDATES to add detail on hydrogen plans