Hydrogen as the fuel of the future is the talk of the town on the energy markets. Advantages and disadvantages of green versus blue hydrogen, capacity building plans, new production technologies, as you call them, researchers are working on it.
Hydrogen can be used as fuel in fuel cell vehicles – still very expensive – and for heating – mixed with natural gas. Another thing it can be used for is renewable energy storage.
The Sydney Morning Herald earlier this week reported LAVO, a company that essentially developed a hydrogen battery that can take the electricity generated by solar panels and store it in the form of hydrogen to be released when needed.
The refrigerator-sized battery contains an electrolyser that breaks water down into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is then stored in a set of canisters with hydride – a fiber-metal alloy. The battery can be connected to a solar panel, store the excess electricity it generates as hydrogen, and then release the hydrogen as a battery and power various devices.
Developed in partnership with the University of New South Wales, the battery can power a household for two to three days on a single charge, according to Nick O'Malley of the Sydney Morning Herald. According to Alan Yu, the managing director of the developer company, with a lifespan of 20 years it is also more durable than household lithium-ion batteries.
This Australian battery costs more than $ 30,000, but there are early buyers attracted by the convenience and likely reliability of the system, whose risk of hydrogen burn is eliminated by the solid-state hydride.
This is just one example of how hydrogen can be used for energy storage by killing two birds with one stone. On the one hand, depending on the production method, hydrogen is a relatively inexpensive storage option compared to battery arrays, which cost hundreds of millions of dollars. On the other hand, there is a good use where hydrogen can be used without the need for major technological breakthroughs.
The hydrogen is generated from excess electricity generated by solar or wind parks, stored in underground caverns or misappropriated pipelines. When the grid needs more electricity, it is fed into power plants to drive their turbines and create the necessary difference.
“Since gas turbines are inherently fuel-flexible, they can be configured to run as a new unit on green hydrogen or similar fuels, or they can be upgraded with conventional fuels, ie natural gas, after long periods of operation.” according to to GE, one of the companies working to get more hydrogen into their operations. The company adds that there is a cost to this, but the cost would depend on the initial configuration of the turbine.
This creates a picture of a future world in which every household has its own solar park and a battery, which can be lithium-ion, if the technology advances sufficiently, or hydrogen. When the sun is shining, the battery absorbs the electricity that the household does not use and then releases it when it is night or when the sky is overcast.
If this picture looks too good to be true, it's because it is for now. Green hydrogen is an expensive source of energy, and the efficiency rates when converting it to water are also not the best, which adds to the cost. According to Green Tech Media, the Efficiency The conversion of water into hydrogen and oxygen by means of electrolysis and then back into electricity is only 35 percent efficient. In comparison, batteries have an efficiency of 95 percent.
But there are also products like the Australian battery developed by LAVO and the University of New South Wales. Although the price is considerable, the hydrogen canisters can be shared. So if you buy the systems, you can rent the canisters.
This is a great solution for households or small communities. However, some governments, particularly the EU, have much larger plans for hydrogen, and those plans could go in depth due to the high cost of green hydrogen. As Rystad Energy said in a recent report, “Good Ingredients, Bad Cocktail.”
The consulting firm dealt specifically with the costs of generating green hydrogen using electricity from offshore wind farms. However, solar power is not that much different because the cost of producing green hydrogen includes not only the cost of the power source – wind turbines or solar panels – but also the electrolyser, which actually converts water to hydrogen and oxygen. Large electrolyzers are expensive devices. So unless a breakthrough is achieved, green hydrogen will continue to be much more expensive than hydrogen made from natural gas.
However, developments at household and community level should not be underestimated. They represent small advances on a very long road to the energy transition, but could turn out to be far more significant than, for example, the EU's plans to build 40 GW green hydrogen capacity. Even if the cost of producing green hydrogen fall By 2050 they would be 50 percent higher than the current prices for gray and blue hydrogen.
By Irina Slav for Oil Genealogie
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