Masdar & VERBUND explore gigawatt-scale solar plant in Central Spain

By Arya M Nair, Official Reporter
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Masdar_Verbund partnership
Rep.Image | Courtesy: WAM

Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) and VERBUND Green Hydrogen GmbH have signed a deal to explore developing a green hydrogen plant in central Spain and drive efforts decarbonize Europe’s hard-to-abate sectors.

As world leaders negotiate at the UN’s Climate Change Conference COP28 in the UAE, clean energy pioneers Masdar and VERBUND Green Hydrogen GmbH moved forward with plans to analyze the feasibility of building one of Europe’s largest green hydrogen production plants in central Spain.

The upcoming plant will use the rich renewable resources of the Castilla-La Mancha region to produce green hydrogen to meet the industrial demand in Central and Spain. The study will evaluate if green hydrogen produced at the plant has the potential to displace up to 1 million tons of carbon emissions annually, equivalent to removing around 700,000 cars off the road every year.

The agreement was signed by Mr. Mohammad Abdelqader El Ramahi, Masdar’s Chief Green Hydrogen Officer and Mr. Hamead Ahrary, Managing Director of VERBUND Green Hydrogen GmbH during COP28 in Expo City Dubai. It cements an earlier pact, signed between the companies during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week in January 2023, to explore green hydrogen opportunities to cover European demand.

Green hydrogen is produced using electricity from renewable sources whereby the water is separated into oxygen and hydrogen, via the process of electrolysis. It is intended that the explored plant will produce green hydrogen using renewable energy generated by solar power plants, potentially including Masdar’s planned gigawatt-scale solar plant in Castilla-La Mancha, and onshore wind farms. The project is expected to stimulate job creation and boost green industry in the sparsely populated area.

Mohammad Abdelqader El Ramahi_Masdar_Verbund green hydrogen partnership
Mohammad Abdelqader El Ramahi
Chief Green Hydrogen Officer – Masdar

“Masdar is delighted to be moving forward on this milestone project with our strategic partner, VERBUND Green Hydrogen GmbH. As one of Europe’s largest planned green hydrogen production plants, the project aims to produce green hydrogen to help decarbonize the continent’s hard-to-abate industries while creating jobs and tapping into the region’s enormous solar and wind potential. Our successful collaboration on this project paves the way for further development of green hydrogen and a vital pipeline linking centers of production with end-use markets. At COP28, as the world looks for ways to accelerate the journey to net zero, partnerships such as this serve as a powerful example of what can be achieved if we work together with purpose and at pace.”

There is huge growth potential for green hydrogen in Europe. Spain currently consumes around 500,000 tons of mainly traditional fuel-derived ‘gray’ hydrogen per year, which could be gradually replaced with green hydrogen. By 2035, Austria alone is expected to require around 600,000 tons per year of clean hydrogen.

Mr. Michael Strugl, Chief Executive Officer of VERBUND, commented that “We are very pleased that, within our cooperation with Masdar we can take the next step in the form of a Joint Study Agreement (JSA). The goal is to identify the subsequent way-forward towards large-scale hydrogen production in Spain. Partnerships like this are essential to jointly ramp up the European hydrogen market to meet decarbonization goals.”

Mr. Ahrary stated that “The Spanish market plays a vital role for us, both for the development of local H₂ production, as well as for future potential import to Central Europe. The joint study will generate valuable insights for the feasibility and execution of a potential project, which would result in the further strengthened positioning of VERBUND in the Spanish market. Hence, we are looking forward to the results of this study.”

The planned green hydrogen produced is expected to be used to decarbonize Spain or Europe’s hard-to-abate sectors, which could include steel production, fertilizers, chemicals, heavy transportation, and aviation. Currently, steelmaking alone is responsible for 5 percent of European carbon emissions. With most European Union nations pledging to become carbon neutral by 2050, green hydrogen presents a powerful vehicle for achieving that aim.

Expected to be operational by the end of the decade, the planned green hydrogen plant will serve the industrial sector and has the potential to help decarbonize heavy transportation in Spain as well as in Central Europe.

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