Successfully demonstrating the commercial viability of generating and using hydrogen to supplement solar and wind energy in producing electricity at power plants is important to increase the value of power plants that use solar and wind energy. This is because a limitation on the value of power plants using solar and wind energy to generate electricity is the period of time when there is no sun or wind. During these periods, power plants cannot generate electricity, rendering them useless without alternatives.
A possible remedy to this problem is also using the power plants to produce hydrogen while solar and wind energy is available, storing the hydrogen, and then using the stored hydrogen as the needed source of energy at the power plants when there is no sun or wind. However, the commercial and technical viability of this remedy needs to be demonstrated. In this regards, many demonstration projects across several countries have been ongoing.
Examples of such demonstration projects are the five German demonstration projects listed below that are investigating the use of hydrogen as a source of energy at solar and wind power plants:
Mainz. A demonstration plant, EnergiePark, began in 2014. Siemens, Linde, Stadtwerke Mainz AG, and other organizations are associated with the project. A Siemens Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) electrolysis system is being used to convert water into hydrogen and oxygen using energy from wind farms. The plant has a 6 megawatt (MW) rating and a capacity to produce 650,000 kg of hydrogen per year. Click here for more details – PDF file.
Falkenhagen. An alkaline electrolyser, provided by Hydrogenics, uses wind farm energy to produce hydrogen, which then is fed into the natural gas grid. The plant has been operating since 2013 and has a 2 MW rating. Click here for more details – PDF file.
Reitbrook. A 2015-started plant, owned by Uniper and using a Hydrogenics PEM electrolyser, feeds hydrogen into the local natural gas grid. The 1.5 MW-rated plant is reportedly one of a few using a 1.5 MW PEM electrolyser, provided by Hydrogenics. Click here (PDF file) and here for further details.
Werlte. A 2013-started plant in Werlte, associated with Etogas, EWE, and AUDI, uses solar, wind, and biogas renewable resources to generate hydrogen from water. The hydrogen is used to produce methane. An alkaline electrolyser is used. Click here for more details - PDF file.
Ibbenbueren. A PEM electrolyser, provided by ITW Power, is being used at a plant in Ibbenbueren to produce hydrogen, which then is fed into the local natural gas grid. Click here for further details – PDF file.
As indicated above, many demonstration projects across several countries (in addition to the ones being conducted in Germany) have been ongoing. A Danish Gas Technology Centre 2013 report identifies more than fifty such projects. (Click here to read this report – PDF file.) And a Master’s Thesis (Vesa Vartiainen – Lappeenranta University of Technology) also identifies more than fifty such projects. (Click here to read this thesis – PDF file.) The thesis also provides an overview of processes for producing hydrogen and its use as an energy carrier.