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Published on October 12th, 2011 | by Andrew


Hydrogen Storage-Fuel Cell System to Smooth Out Intermittent Wind Power in Germany

October 12th, 2011 by  

Photo courtesy of Siemens AG

Ontario’s Hydrogenics has won a contract to supply a hydrogen production, storage and fuel cell system to the German city of Herten, the Mississauga-based company announced today.

Developing the means to manage intermittent electricity generation from wind power farms has been a key challenge for grid operators, one that Herten city officials decided was best addressed by using a Hydrogenics’ HySTAT 30 hydrogen generator to electrolyze water, storing the resulting hydrogen and then converting it back to electricity using a Hydrogenics’ HyPM 50-kilowatt (kW) fuel cell power system.

“Electrolyzing water into hydrogen using excess intermittent renewable energy is the optimal clean pathway to smart grid stabilization and energy storage capacity, Hydrogenics’ president and CEO Daryl Wilson stated in a press release.

“It has real advantages over alternative energy storage solutions. We are very pleased that such a globally recognized hydrogen cluster as the City of Herten has awarded us the opportunity to demonstrate this capability.”

Wind Power Storage, Zero Emissions Conversion

One of the system’s key benefits is that the entire hydrogen production, storage and power generation process will be accomplished with zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

It’s much more common to produce the hydrogen fuel cells need from natural gas, and to a lesser but growing extent from biogas. Electrolyzing water to produce hydrogen requires more energy, and hence is more costly. That’s what the system at Herten will do, however, given the ready availability of electricity from wind power and local water resources.

The success of the system could have large implications for Germany and the country’s energy industry as it strives to shut down all its nuclear power plants and replace the lost electrical power with electricity from clean, renewable power sources by 2022.

The project could also make a big impact on the fortunes of the Nasdaq-listed developer and manufacturer of hydrogen generation and fuel cell systems.

Located in the state of North Rhine Westphalia, Herten is recognized as a “major German hydrogen cluster for electro-mobility, as well as renewable energy projects,” according to the press release. Success there would provide Hydrogenics with a proven, solid system that it could then market more widely in Germany and Europe.

Shared Fortunes

The fortunes of fuel cell systems and hydrogen production and storage companies are tied together to some degree, as commercial fuel cells rely on hydrogen gas as a feedstock to produce electricity. Hydrogenics is active in both.

Demand for hydrogen production, storage and fuel cell systems is ramping up globally. The commercialization of fuel cell vehicles is viewed as a key driver. A recently released report from Pike Research forecast that commercialization of fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) will accelerate in 2015 and grow to reach $16.9 billion in annual revenue by 2020. Demand from the Asia-Pacific region will outstrip that other regions, according to Pike’s research.

The possibilities, and business prospects, may be equally as great if the combination of wind power-hydrogen generation and storage-fuel cell systems proves successful.

In September, Hydrogenics announced that it had received C$5 million (US$4.92 million) worth of orders to deliver electrolyzers from unnamed companies in Asia and South America over the ensuing six to nine months.

For more on hydrogen storage and fuel cells, check out:

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About the Author

I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.

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