Goldwind joins 20GW hydrogen plan in China

Goldwind has signed up as one of the first partners in a wind-to-hydrogen project in northeast China that eventually wants 20 GW of wind turbines producing green fuel for a new-look clean transportation system.

The project in the city of Baicheng, Jilin province – which also aims to eventually harness 15 GW of solar PV – is the largest yet announced in China to explicitly integrate renewable generation and hydrogen infrastructure within a so-called “hydrogen valley” producing more than one million tonnes of the fuel annually by 2035.

As wind energy supplier, Goldwind is among an initial batch of partners in the Baicheng government project that also includes local utility Jilin Electricity Power Co. (JEPC) and China Shipbuilding Industry Corp (CSIC).

In its filing to stock market investors, JEPC – which will lead the project – disclosed that the four parties agreed to develop onshore wind farms, and hydrogen production and storage facilities, as well as refueling stations in the city. The scale of the initial wind developments was not disclosed in the filling.

With wind power as its “upstream” resource, the city of two million people plans to establish a downstream market for the clean fuel by manufacturing hydrogen buses for urban transportation. The city also last week revealed plans to explore feeding hydrogen into existing natural gas pipelines, eventually supplying other northern cities via the Sino-Russia network.

Like other wind-rich areas of China, Baicheng’s grid faces problems accommodating power from the 4.65GW of existing wind and solar capacity serving the city, leading to curtailment of output. A hydrogen infrastructure is seen as an ideal outlet for putting unused generation potential to good use.

Otherwise curtailed, the stranded wind power would serve as a cheap energy source for hydrogen production. Using existing wind capacity, the cost for production is estimated at 20-22 yuan per kilogram (kg) ($2.91-3.2/kg), leading to a less than 45 yuan/kg fuel cost in the fueling station, Gan Yong, a former vice president of the Chinese Academy of Engineering told a recent meeting on hydrogen development.

The expert believes the city could eventually cut the cost to under 40 yuan/kg, as distributed grid and power trading schemes will further push down the wind prices. At that level, hydrogen-fueled vehicles would be able to compete with traditional transportation, he said.

Baicheng’s plan is just one example of greater ambition in Chinese local government to invest in the hydrogen industry, after the national State Council listed “hydrogen charging infrastructure” as one the Chinese government’s work priorities in 2019.

Fourteen provinces in China including Guangdong, Zhejiang, Hebei, and Shandong have released plans to develop hydrogen value chains. But unlike Baicheng’s model, most were unclear over the “upstream” sources for the gas production.