In view of the energy crisis, the market for alternative energy concepts and energy storage systems is experiencing a strong growth curve. According to the German Energy Storage Association (BVES), the storage industry grew by more than 25 percent with sales of EUR 8.9 billion in 2021. After a boom in the home storage market, the energy crisis is now providing an important impulse to market segments that were previously rather reluctant to convert their established energy supply processes. High energy price fluctuations, an obligation to decarbonize along with the pursuit of security of supply have increased the demand for sustainable, emission-free energy and mobility concepts also with municipalities and local authorities. Renewable energy sources coupled with green hydrogen can significantly reduce import dependencies especially regarding oil and gas. H-TEC SYSTEMS, an expert in green hydrogen, highlights those fields of application where the use of such energy concepts is particularly worthwhile.
If the energy generated from renewable resources such as wind or solar as part of the energy transition were fed into the power grid immediately after generation, there would be considerable fluctuations in the energy supply network. In order that the environmentally-friendly electricity can be used completely and without losses, it must be stored. In addition to battery storage, storage technologies such as green hydrogen are also gaining in importance. In contrast to batteries, hydrogen is suitable for storing energy over longer periods of time because hardly any energy is lost. Other approaches, such as storing energy in water storage tanks or as heat in the ground, can make a valuable contribution to winter heat supply but are not suitable for storing electricity.
Green hydrogen for regional energy supply
Energy suppliers and infrastructure companies can see ideal areas of application for energy storage and sector coupling using green hydrogen. Renewable energy and water are converted into green hydrogen via electrolysis. This can be conveniently stored over a long period of time in the natural gas network or in tanks. In this way, it can help to balance peaks in demand and supply, such as those caused by the generation of renewable energies or different demand patterns. Local authorities and municipalities are increasingly recognizing the high risk of further price increases and supply bottlenecks for fossil fuels such as oil and gas and are busy investing in local projects for the use of renewable energies. Important advantages of using green hydrogen are:
Backup storage in case of energy shortages: In the event of energy bottlenecks, energy storage can therefore reduce dependency on energy suppliers. Electricity stored in the form of hydrogen can be called up on site and made available in the grid if required. In projects such as the Emsland funding project ”Green H2-Hub Haren“, this contributes, for example, to ensuring a better rate of self-sufficiency from renewable energies.
Demand peak shaving: The risk of demand peaks, e.g. increased energy requirements for heating in winter, is an important factor for planning and economic efficiency, especially in the municipal sector. For example, solar or wind energy is not available to the same extent in winter and summer.
Price and planning security: In the current context of sharply rising or fluctuating energy prices, the storage of energy from renewable resources can help local authorities and municipalities to plan more reliably. In addition, price fluctuations when purchasing electricity can be better balanced - keywords here are price peak shaving. Another important argument for those responsible is the operating costs (Opex). It is important for decision-makers that maintenance and energy costs can be precisely calculated. With concepts based on renewable energy production and green hydrogen, it can be reliably determined how much the gas is likely to cost in the next few years.
When setting up an energy supply or a stable energy infrastructure which integrates green hydrogen as a storage medium, "plug-and-play" systems for PEM electrolyzers in a turnkey design that can be used without requiring significant infrastructure work are particularly advantageous. Modern PEM electrolyzers for the production of green hydrogen in the magnitude of 1 megawatt or more come in standard 40' containers. These electrolyzers are based on an established PEM stack technology that has been available on the market since 2017.
Sustainable mobility concepts
Alongside these advantages, green hydrogen can also be used for mobility applications. A 1 MW system can provide the necessary hydrogen for refueling 10 fuel cell buses per day – for example, for municipal public transport companies. Similar to fossil fuels, hydrogen is easy to transport but unlike electricity it can also be stored in large quantities and can be used directly for fuel cells. With the help of so-called Power-to-X processes, this opens up new areas of application for the production of emission-free and climate-friendly fuels. These can be used superbly well for municipal mobility concepts – for example, for regional and local public transport, refuse collection vehicles, street cleaning vehicles or the city’s vehicle fleet. For example, HY.City.Bremerhaven uses green hydrogen as part of the "Hyways for Future” hydrogen network project which extends across the north-west metropolitan region from Oldenburg to Cuxhaven for providing sustainable regional mobility.
It is important to ensure that the hydrogen produced has the highest possible degree of purity, the so-called Quality 5.0, so that it can be used for fuel cells in vehicles.
In addition to the obvious advantages, such as energy availability and cost stability of future investments, green hydrogen also contributes to achieving sustainability and decarbonization goals, including those within the framework of the ESG Reporting Act. This is particularly evident in the transport sector.
Advantages for private energy systems of regional users
The electrolysis process not only produces hydrogen but also heat as a by-product at around 60°C - valuable energy that can be fed into the district heating network or used directly for heating nearby residential and business premises in the community. The system efficiency of PEM electrolyzers can increase to up to 90% with additional use of heat. This is demonstrated by projects such as the eFarm hydrogen network in North Friesland.
In future, hydrogen will also play an important role for smaller production companies as well as for residential areas as the existing gas network can be used to transport hydrogen to households. In the Haurup windgas project, for example, up to 3 million kilowatt hours of green hydrogen from excess wind power are fed into the natural gas grid every year.
Another way of using green hydrogen in the natural gas network is through methanation and subsequent feeding into the gas network. In a project in Styria (Austria) an H-TEC SYSTEMS ME450 electrolyzer currently produces up to 450 kg of green hydrogen per day. Through Power-to-X, green methane is produced that can be fed into the grid on a daily basis. As a result, this means that around 200 households can be supplied with heating and hot water every day.
"As a pioneer of PEM electrolysis technology, we are seeing more and more practical applications that show how green hydrogen can help accelerate the energy transition process," explains Alexander Detke, Team Lead Sales ME at H-TEC-SYSTEMS. "The core elements are the efficient conversion of fluctuating renewable energy as well as self-sufficiency through on-site hydrogen production and storage. We have geared our systems, such as the ME450 PEM electrolyzer, specifically to customers looking for a quick and easy entry into the emerging hydrogen economy. A hydrogen purity of 99.999% for direct use of the hydrogen in mobility as well as industrial projects, the high plant availability and our regional service teams ensure low costs for every kilogram of hydrogen produced and help the municipalities to achieve the greatest possible benefit from the projects."