The need for a complete energy storage solution is becoming more critical as renewable sources of energy continue to intermittently generate variable outputs of electricity, often with a mismatch in grid power demand. A number of energy management and storage systems are being developed today, but few offer a comprehensive means for seamlessly integrating wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) energy, for example, into the grid.
Hydrogen-based energy solutions are increasingly considered an effective means for making renewable energy grid ready, particularly for use in the transportation and industrial sectors.
Five facts about hydrogen-based energy solutions that you may not know:
1. With the right developments, water electrolysis technology is the most tenable solution to store renewable energy on a large, long-term scale. Hydrogen-based technologies can reduce the infrastructure investments required for integrating intermittent generators into the grid. These hydrogen energy storage solutions use electro-chemical conversions to split water (H20) molecules into their compositional elements, which can be stored in common tanks.
Hydrogen is a flexible energy medium or carrier, but there are challenges with respect to commercializing this technology. The two main barriers today are the efficiency of large electrolysers and fuel cells (about 60 to 70% each) and the capital cost of the equipment. There are currently specific applications in the transportation and refining sectors where using surplus clean electricity to produce the hydrogen can overcome these two barriers. However, wider deployment will require more R&D to economically use clean electricity to displace fossil fuels.
2. Engineers continue to perfect fuel cell technology so that large-scale generation remains cost-effective. One impediment is that electrolyser systems typically require the over-sizing of subsystems, such as the power supply and thermal management. Electrolysers are composed of a varying number of cell stacks and cells per stack, both of which impact the cost, efficiency and rate of hydrogen production. Engineers are also evaluating new membrane technologies and polymers that will increase conductivity, while reducing the thickness and amount of precious metal catalysts required.
3. Hydrogen gas has the largest energy content per unit of mass of any fuel other than nuclear, making it an ideal ‘vehicle’ for holding and distributing energy. With the ability to hold 120MJ/kg, a relatively small weight of hydrogen is needed to store significant amounts of energy. Unfortunately, hydrogen cannot be liquefied under pressure at room temperature. This has required the development of high-pressure carbon fibre-reinforced storage cylinders to reduce the volume to a practical size for mobile applications.
4. The stable chemistry of hydrogen means it can store energy longer than any other medium. Smaller amounts of hydrogen can be stored in pressurized tanks above ground, and larger amounts can be stored at lower pressures in underground caverns or piping systems to time-shift energy for days or even months. The hydrogen produced from electrolysis is currently stored as either a gas under high pressure, a liquid at cryogenic (very low) temperatures, or adsorbed by or chemically bonded to hydride complexes.
5. The versatility of stored hydrogen gas means it can be well suited for new renewable energy infrastructure development. The renewably produced, stored gas could be used in large-scale fuel cells to produce electricity on-site, or it can utilize existing infrastructure, such as natural gas pipelines. Natural gas appliances can burn a mix of natural gas and hydrogen up to about 5% by weight without any changes to the burners or up to about 20% by weight without major changes to the distribution system. Hydrogen gas can be turned back into electricity for the grid, can be used to produce ammonia or to power fuel cell electric vehicles. It is also possible to combine the renewable hydrogen product with carbon dioxide to produce synthetic natural gas that can be piped into existing natural gas infrastructure.
Are you interested in hydrogen-based energy solutions for the north?
You won’t want to miss the Hydrogen for Sustainable Northern Communities Forum on June 27 in North Bay.
The Hydrogen Business Council of Canada, in partnership with Invest North Bay Development Corporation and event partners OSPE, Ontario Centres of Excellence, Ontario Power Generation, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories and Canadore College, will bring together a comprehensive slate of speakers who will share their knowledge as they represent northern communities, active pilot projects, fuel cell and hydrogen generating technologies, and multi-level government involvements.
Learn more about the emerging solutions that hydrogen offers for transportation, energy storage, and industrial applications – all in the context of Northern needs and opportunities.
The June 27 forum will include lunch and networking opportunities, as well as a pre-event “Meet-and-Greet reception and Networking Mixer” on the evening of June 26th.
*Early bird registration ends TOMORROW June 9, 2017.
Hydrogen-based energy solutions are a prime example of how important it is for decision and policy makers to consult with engineers and other technical experts who can provide a thorough explanation of the current and future energy technologies necessary for creating a safe and reliable energy mix as our supplies shift from carbon intensive to carbon restricted.
Renewable Energy World: Hydrogen Energy Storage – A New Solution TO the Renewable Energy Intermittency Problem
SBC Energy Institute: Leading the Energy Transition Factbook – Hydrogen-Based Energy Conversion