Freiburg im Breisgau / Lübeck / Reußenköge, 6 December 2012 – If the 'energy revolution' is to be successful in Germany, efficient storage technologies will be indispensable in future. The Lübeck firm of H-TEC Systems, a subsidiary of the Schleswig-Holstein power plant developer GP JOULE, has now delivered a polymer-electrolyte-membrane (PEM) electrolyser to the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) in Freiburg im Breisgau as part of the joint project funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research 'Storing electrical energy from renewable sources in the natural gas grid – H2O electrolysis and synthesis of gas components'. Within the scope of the joint project, new methods and components for the so-called 'Power-to-Gas' concept are to be developed. The aim is to develop a highly dynamic and efficient system with which large amounts of excess energy from renewable sources such as wind and sun can be chemically bonded in the long term as methane.
The production of hydrogen through electrolysis is a key technology in this context. H-TEC Systems has managed to develop and for the first time supply a serial system that sets standards in the fields of flexibility, efficiency and profitability with the EL30 PEM electrolyser. The job of the Fraunhofer ISE is now to investigate and optimise the combination of the PEM electrolyser with renewable energies such as wind power and solar energy.
Natural gas is largely made up of methane. Thus, the energy stored as methane can be easily fed into the existing natural gas infrastructure so that it can then be transported and stored in large quantities and at a low cost. At night or when there is no wind, in other words at times when the electricity generated from renewable sources is not enough to satisfy the demand, this 'wind and solar gas' can then be used and converted back into electricity and heat with zero emissions in gas-fired power plants, for example.
Apart from its use for methanation, hydrogen produced by renewable methods can also be used in various other ways as a source of energy. For example, it can be directly admixed with natural gas up to a share of 2-5 percent, so that it can also be used as a sustainable source of energy in this form in households and industry. Furthermore, hydrogen can be converted back into electricity and heat locally with the aid of fuel cells or in combined heat and power plant (CHP) or can reduce the demand for petrol and diesel in the mobility sector.
Renewable energy solutions, industrial applications, emergency power supplies, isolated solutions as well as the electromobility sector profit from PEM electrolysis in this way.
The connected electrical load of the PEM electrolyser offered by H-TEC will initially be between 2 and 200 kilowatts. The company is currently looking into the possibility of developing larger units in the power class around 1 megawatt in the coming years.
'High-performance hydrogen electrolysers are the key technology for a local energy infrastructure', says Ove Petersen, Managing Director of both H-TEC and GP JOULE. 'The power-to-gas concept on the one hand eliminates supply risks so often complained about by the most energy-intensive industries and, on the other, the capacity of the existing grids is utilised better. We are working flat out to successively expand the storage capacities of the equipment to provide business with innovative and affordable solutions for decentralised electricity storage.'
H-TEC EL30 electrolysers are plug-in complete systems and consist of an electrolysis unit, a water treatment system and a power converter to connect to the mains. The centrepiece is a 30 bar PEM electrolysis stack which, together with a special cooling system, a water recirculation system, the system management, an optional drying unit and an intelligent control system, forms the electrolysis unit. But even though the devices are relatively complex, their practical use is very simple because they are ready-to-use, plug-in complete systems. Depending on the customer's requirements, they are easy to install, commission and use allow with a power consumption for the individual device of up to 18 kW and a hydrogen production of up to 3.6 m3/h.
About GP JOULE:
Win with energy – is the motto under which GP JOULE develops, plans and realises projects for the innovative use of renewable energies. The goal of the company founders and agricultural engineers Ove Petersen and Heiner Gärtner is to combine agriculture and economy so as to open up fertile investment perspectives for investors. Apart from the business segments solar energy, wind power and biomass, the future concepts corporate division brings together the know-how of the energy experts into integrated solutions and applies itself to investigating new technologies. GP JOULE now has four locations in the north and south of Germany as well as two international locations in the USA and Canada; its head office is in Reußenköge, North Friesland.
From its head office in Lübeck, H-TEC has been developing and producing innovative hydrogen technology as a source of energy for the future with a team of around 30 experts since 1997. H-TEC Systems is the world's first company to mass produce PEM electrolysers. What's more, the subsidiary H-TEC EDUCATION GmbH manufactures teaching and demonstration models for hands-on experiments and test set-ups in the field of hydrogen technology.
About the Fraunhofer ISE:
The Fraunhofer ISE has more than 1,200 employees and is Europe's largest solar research institute. The institute's work ranges from investigations into the scientific-technical principles of using solar energy, the development of prototypes, right through to the execution of demonstration plants.
Partners in the joint project:
Further partners in the joint project are the DVGW Test Laboratory at the Engler Bunte Institut of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT, coordination), Outotec GmbH, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), IoLiTec Ionic Liquids Technologies GmbH and EnBW Energie Baden Württemberg AG.