Interview: Enterprize Energy’s Ian Hatton on his wind-and-fuel vision

BY ALEX CURTIS:

“We think the time is right for green fuels.”

Last week Enterprize Energy, an Asia-based offshore wind developer, revealed a deal with marine engineering firm Tractebel Overdick to develop technology called ‘Energy Plus’.

The technology is set to pair green hydrogen and ammonia as storage with Enterprize’s offshore wind projects.

Enterprize is currently working on offshore projects in Taiwan and Vietnam, and has ambitions to grow outside Asia. Energy Storage Report interviewed chairman and founder Ian Hatton about the firm’s storage plans, why it has focused on Asia, and his predictions for the future of wind-plus-storage.

Enterprizing chap

Energy Plus is a system that is set to take offshore wind power and turn it into multiple sources: clean electrons for the electric grid, green hydrogen for the gas grid, and ammonia exported via tankers. Enterprize and Tractebel Overdick will now work on the prototype.

Hatton says the idea is rooted in the Ormonde wind development, which he developed at previous company Eclipse Energy in the 2000s. The project in the Irish Sea was planned to be a hybrid pairing offshore wind and natural gas.

Eclipse sold the project shortly before the 2008 financial crash to Vattenfall, during its construction phase. However, Vattenfall deemed that the gas aspect was not feasible, so Ormonde is now a pure 150MW offshore wind farm made up of 30 5MW turbines.

That project never became a hybrid, but Hatton hasn’t quit on his wind-plus-storage goals. Indeed, the market now seems to be catching up with him.

He says “the market demand for green fuels is expanding very quickly” and “price competitiveness is certainly starting to move towards a convergence with fossils”. This has led to increased talk among giant utilities in offshore wind of pairing their projects with green hydrogen. The competition in this sector looks set to be fierce.

It is competition in offshore wind in Europe that encouraged Hatton to set up Enterprize in Singapore in 2009. He says: “For a company of our size, it makes absolutely no sense to go into bat against large companies.”

The falling levelised cost of offshore wind energy has made it difficult for smaller players to compete in European or North American tenders with big developers like Equinor, Iberdrola, Ørsted or Vattenfall. This led Enterprize into the then-nascent Asian market, where it could win in offshore tenders. These deals now can now potentially be paired with storage.

For example, going to Asia enabled Enterprize to receive state support for its 3.4GW Thang Long offshore wind project in Vietnam and the 1GW Hai Long project in Taiwan. It can then use Energy Plus to piggyback on these schemes, and without having to compete in a highly competitive auction in Europe.

Piggyback potential

Hatton sees huge potential in Asia for offshore wind-plus-storage projects owing to strong winds and less saturated markets than Europe. Enterprize’s early work may help facilitate the development of large projects and open up the market for more investors.

Enterprize Energy is also considering bringing in outside investment, something that historically the company has not done, and could return to the European offshore wind market on the back of his successes in Asia.

The potential of wind-plus-storage doesn’t stop there. Hatton predicts that within the next five to ten years there could be ‘transmission-less’ offshore wind farms, where electricity is used to produce green hydrogen or ammonia at sea and then transported worldwide.

It is one possible future for wind-plus-storage projects. Why bother dealing with grid connections and troublesome landowners if you can turn the wind power into hydrogen on site, and have it collected by zero-emission maritime vessels that supply the fuel to where it’s needed?

It’s an idea that may seem a long way away, but we’ve often been surprised at the speed of technological evolution in offshore wind. It may, as with some of Hatton’s other ideas, simply be ahead of its time.

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