After a prolonged period of inactivity, Bavaria’s largest green hydrogen plant in Wunsiedel, Upper Franconia, is gearing up to resume regular operations.
According to managing director Philipp Matthes, the plant aims to produce significant amounts of hydrogen in August, with plans to gradually increase production by the end of the year.
The electrolysis plant, which went into operation in September 2022, was hailed as groundbreaking work for Germany and Europe by Prime Minister Markus Söder. However, shortly after its launch, production came to a halt. Matthes revealed that the system had not been operational for an entire week due to its unprofitability caused by the electricity price brake and the consequent reduction of surplus income from electricity producers.
The plant utilizes electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis. To ensure the economic feasibility of producing “green hydrogen,” the company relies on affordable and environmentally friendly electricity generated from wind and solar sources. Unfortunately, the electricity price brake led to revenue skimming for electricity producers, based on high prices in the electricity market. With the regulation set to expire on June 30th, the plant in Upper Franconia sees a renewed economic perspective.
The prolonged period of inactivity has depleted the plant’s reserves, hampering the expansion of its capacity, albeit remaining a long-term goal. In response to the upcoming expiration of the regulation, discussions have been resumed with regional electricity providers, while potential customers in the regional economy, such as the glass and ceramics industry, transport companies, and automotive suppliers, are still interested in purchasing the hydrogen produced.
The Wunsiedel plant boasts an output of approximately nine megawatts, making it a significant player in the green hydrogen sector. By comparison, a wind turbine had an average output of nearly 5.3 megawatts at the end of 2022, according to industry information.
Bavaria’s Economics Minister, Hubert Aiwanger, representing the Free Voters party, had previously made efforts to secure exceptions for electrolysis plant operators and an earlier end to the profit skimming regulations for electricity producers but did not succeed.
Aiwanger recently criticized the federal government for the prolonged standstill at the plant, referring to it as a “poet” by the federal government. He expressed disappointment that despite the government’s substantial investment in the production facility, it remained shut down for months due to a lack of urgently requested exceptions. Aiwanger believes such actions undermine trust in the energy transition and result in wasted resources.