Luuk Feenstra, Energy Systems: “Decarbonise not only power, but also other industries”

Luuk Feenstra, Energy Systems: “Decarbonise not only power, but also other industries”

 The work stream Energy Systems of the NSPWH is studying ways to turn our energy system into a wind-based system against the lowest possible costs for society and without negatively impacting the stability of the current systems. Luuk Feenstra, work stream lead calls for a cross-sectoral approach. “Let’s work on the decarbonization of not only the power sector, but also the sectors which are currently using fossil fuels for transport and industrial purposes. With a well-chosen way of system integration, we can move towards a full decarbonized power system and in the meanwhile reducing the need for fossil fuels in other sectors. “

The massive overhaul of the energy system requires a lot of research. Energy Systems performs pilot studies to figure out how to balance the supply and demand of offshore wind power over a long period of time. Feenstra: “After the initial build out of renewables during the previous decade, we now start to face two issues. First, with increasing levels of renewable power in the system, balancing demand and supply becomes more and more a temporal issue which is not solved only by further extension of the power grid. Secondly, also the other half of the energy system needs to be decarbonised using even more offshore wind to generate synthetic fuels and gases. That’s why we need to look at the future power market and the decarbonisation of different sectors with wind power.  Chemical, Fertilizer and steel industry, for example. If these sectors decarbonise, we will need more offshore wind and that is of course the direction we have to follow. Our aim is an integrated approach, to make the increase of offshore wind go parallel with the demand for it.”

Studies for international coordinated roll-out of Offshore wind
Feenstra favours also the international collaboration. “At the moment, each of our countries focuses on their own part of the North Sea with limited synergies between the countries. We should build a strong network cross countries and cross sectors while developing the new energy system. This will, in the end, cost less and will create a more reliable system.” When it comes to pilot studies, international collaboration is going well. Energynautics and EA Energy, a German-Danish collaboration, are together performing studies. EA Energy specializes in modelling supply-demand situations to determining the necessary infrastructure per situation. The collaboration is supported by the Danish University DTU Wind which is specialized in wind production profiles as well as the Dutch research institute TNO for issues like system integration and exploring the concept of a hydrogen economy in terms of electrolysis, flexibility, transport and storage.

How do you maintain a secure and balanced energy supply when your source, the wind, is unpredictable? That is the main issue for Energy Systems. Feenstra: “We are researching at least three main options to match the production profile of offshore wind with the fluctuating demand. The first option is building a large, strong and international network between the offshore wind farms and the markets connected to the North Sea (picture) . This will smoothen the overall production curve on an individual connection point to the onshore power grid. The second option is to create flexibility zones in the energy network at the onshore connection point. A kind of offshore energy landing zones where you can convert and store the energy in case of excess wind, as well as to provide dispatchable power when there is a shortage. This is typically the role of batteries for short term horizons as well as electrolysis and hydrogen production while bridging long term periods of time.  The third option is to make the supply responsive; turning the energy demand off when there is no wind and turning it back on when there is enough generation. This demand side responds requires new business models for the final users of energy. Especially industries with relatively low capital intensity and high variable energy costs are targeted for this function. “The production of green hydrogen and green synthetic fuels based on offshore wind is very promising and will definitely play a crucial role while reaching the climate agreement”

Feenstra: “In the end, we will probably conclude that we need a combination of all these three important options.”