They come at 1 p.m. at noon.

When the ferries from Hamburg, Cuxhaven or Büsum arrive, the sleepy North Sea island of Helgoland suddenly becomes a tourist stronghold.

The ships have hundreds of day trippers on board.

Pensioners and young parents with their children jostle across the gangway.

They want to take pictures of gray seals and hear guillemots screeching.

They march into the duty-free shops, eat a fish sandwich in one of Heligoland's colorful lobster stalls or drink an Aperol Spritz on the promenade.

Between the tourists, men in black raincoats paddle around on their cell phones, bored.

They don't take photos, they don't drink Aperol Spritz either.

You walk straight into the large hall right by the port, on which RWE is written.

Or they greet colleagues on the ships in the port called “Seewind 1” or “Mainprize Offshore”.

Or you can check into the largest hotel in Heligoland, the Hotel Atoll.

Expand into the center of the German hydrogen economy

The atoll is actually no longer a real hotel.

Since the energy company WindMW leased it, tourists are no longer allowed to live here, only workers who repair or control wind turbines.

Tourists have been coming to Heligoland for centuries - on the island that likes to call itself Germany's only offshore island. Helgoland has recently got a second face. The energy industry has set up an outpost on the island - in the middle of the German Bight, where the power of the North Sea storms can be harvested. This is why Helgoland has been the world's first service island for offshore wind power since 2011.

The man who lured RWE and WindMW to the island is called Jörg Singer. He has been Mayor of Heligoland since 2011. We meet Singer - angular chin, square glasses - in his office in the Helgoland town hall. He says: "Sure, at the beginning there were many offshore critics, but today 95 percent of the Heligoland are behind the new offshore pillar." There are no surveys to prove this. But if you take a look around on Heligoland, most citizens seem convinced: Without the offshore money, it wouldn't work.

But the mayor has much more far-reaching plans.

Helgoland is to become the center of the German hydrogen economy.

Hundreds of new wind turbines are to generate hydrogen off the island, which will flow in pipelines to Helgoland and from there on to the mainland.

The mayor has been promoting this idea with a support association since 2020, and he already has industry on his side.

But the islanders hesitate.

"The golden years were before the wars"

Jörg Singer runs out of the town hall and makes his way between tourists and migrant workers in the direction of the southern port.

“A hydrogen pipeline could end up here,” he says, pointing to a barrack made of white corrugated iron as he walks past.

He walks past a freight hall and says: “It's already half full, but there is still space in it for our hydrogen business.” Finally, he arrives at the southern port.

Herring gulls screeching round the sky.

“Yes, the federal government will renovate the moles at the outer harbor for a three-digit million sum, so you could also build up land for an LOHC terminal.” The abbreviation for “liquid organic hydrogen carriers” describes the carrier liquid used to transport hydrogen.

Keywords: islanders, mayor, pensioners, helgoland, island, hydrogen, men, millions, debate, rwe, coffers, residents, wind power, port, tourist