As intermittent energy from renewable sources becomes a significant portion of the grid, storage becomes paramount. It could literally save the renewables sector from collapse.
Experts predict that the storage market connected to the wind power industry alone will be worth US$1.1-bn from now to 2015. Power storage has even been described as the new Holy Grail of renewables. “Two-thirds of energy from renewable sources is energy that we really don’t need when it arrives, and so it goes to waste,” says Hydrogenics CEO Daryl Wilson. Between 2009 to 2012, Italy reported the loss of approximately 1600 GWh of wind power, equating to a loss of €130-m due to there being insufficient storage capability. This waste will increase if something is not done.
Pumped hydro storage is the most widespread storage technology with up to 110 GW of installed capacity globally (40 GW in Europe), representing 99% of total storage capacity. Europe plans to add 27 GW by 2020. Europe has a strong position on other large scale energy storage market with one CAES power plant and projects in various other technologies. However, the USA and Japan invest a lot in both conventional and innovative energy storage, making them world leaders. Germany has become Europe’s leader in storage technologies out of necessity in order to handle the huge influx of renewable power. In order to cope with intermittent generation, the German government has announced that over 10 GW of installed capacity will be built by 2020 to handle energy storage.
Power-to-Gas (P2G) storage is starting to get a great deal of attention globally as advocates claim that the conversion of excess renewable power to hydrogen is a very cost-effective and sustainable form of energy storage. These are some of the projects that the EU, US and Canada are currently conducting:
A European consortium of 11 leading companies has established the North Sea Power to Gas Platform with the aim of developing P2G in the countries surrounding the North Sea. The Platform is an initiative of energy consulting and testing and certification company DNV KEMA, and includes Fluxys and Hydrogenics in Belgium; Energinet.dk and Maersk Oil in Denmark; Alliander, Gasunie and TenneT in the Netherlands; ITM Power and National Grid in the UK; and Open Grid Europe in Germany. The Platform is collaborating with the European Gas Research Group (GERG), the Mediterranean Power2Gas Platform (currently being established), as well as shipping companies, NGOs, utilities, energy technology providers, Transmission System Operators, and Distribution System Operators.
The establishment of this Platform is a major step towards a sustainable energy system,’ says Lukas Grond, P2G expert at DNV KEMA and secretary of the Platform. ‘I am pleased that this group of reputed companies have joined forces to bring this technology a step further into the global energy market.’
The development of P2G is of particular interest for the North Sea region as its onshore and offshore natural gas infrastructure is well developed. Added to this, the region has an impressive wind and solar power generating potential. Experts predict that the total generating capacity of offshore wind farms in the North Sea could reach approximately 100 GW by 2030. The solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity installed in the countries surrounding the North Sea is expected to grow from 35 GW in 2012 to almost 60 GW in 2020.
Another P2G project is being carried out in the UK by energy storage company, ITM Power. The company is working with the UK’s National Grid and others to investigate the feasibility of injecting hydrogen generated from electrolysis fed from excess renewables into the UK’s gas networks. As part of a 'smart grid' study, ITM has launched an upgrade to its hydrogen-producing HGas electrolyser on the Isle of Wight, UK. This will allow more solar and wind power to come on to the grid. The project, sponsored by the UK government, will examine how HGas electrolyser units produce hydrogen gas from excess renewable power that utilities can sell as fuel to natural gas consumers and power plants.
Another big European energy storage project, The Don Quichote project, was adopted in 2012 and is expected to run for five years. Canadian developer and manufacturer of hydrogen generation and hydrogen-based power modules, Hydrogenics, heads the project. Private firms from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Iceland, Italy are involved.
The European Commission forked out €2.86m for the project under the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen joint undertaking. The project will use a 350 bar electrochemical compressor, a 30Nm3 PEM electrolyzer system and a 90 kW fuel cell system to demonstrate the technical and economical viability of an integrated hydrogen storage system for renewable electricity connected to a hydrogen refueling facility
P2G is something Powertech Labs – part of BC Hydro- has been developing in a pilot project in Bella Coola, where electricity from a run-of-river project converts water to hydrogen. Ballard fuel cells then convert it back into electricity. The Hydrogen Assisted Renewable Power (HARP) project is a partnership between BC Hydro, GE and Powertech and is supported by the province of Bella Coola and Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC). The project aims to supply power to a remote community of Bella Coola and at the same time, help them to rely less on costly diesel generators. GE’s microgrid controller automatically responds to fluctuations in supply and demand, ensuring that energy is managed efficiently. This results in a cleaner, smarter and more energy efficient power generation system for the community.
Last year, Hydrogenics and Enbridge collaborated to develop utility-scale energy storage via hydrogen in gas grids. The collaboration will focus on the deployment of utility-scale energy storage in Ontario. With ‘Power-to-Gas’, the hydrogen produced during times of excess renewable generation, will be transmitted into the existing natural gas pipeline network. This will proportionally increase the renewable energy content in natural gas pipelines, for essentially just the operating cost of the electrolyser, explains Renewable Energy Focus.
“This clean energy solution establishes a bridge between the electricity and natural gas networks, to bring seasonal storage capabilities to electricity networks,’ explains Chuck Szmurlo, VP of alternative & emerging technology at Enbridge. He adds that the initiative points to the necessity of pipelines with the increasing integration of renewable energy.
There are a number of examples around the US where hydrogen is being generated using renewable resources. This is being done at various scales and for different applications. These include hydrogen production from landfill gas using a fuel cell “tri-generation” system, direct solar electrolysis for hydrogen to be used as a vehicle fuel, and a winery that is generating hydrogen from wastewater using a “microbial electrolysis cell.”
For almost a decade, hydrogen storage has been conducted under the framework of the National Hydrogen Storage Project. The effort includes independent projects and Centers of Excellence (CoEs) in applied hydrogen storage R&D funded by DOE/EERE and basic research projects for hydrogen storage funded by the DOE Office of Science. Hydrogen Storage Engineering CoE, established in 2009, provides a coordinated approach to the engineering R&D of on-board materials-based systems. The Engineering CoE is planned as a five-year effort and may produce up to three sub-scale prototype systems (based on the most promising materials under consideration) as its final output (subject to go/no-go decision points).
The HES (Hydrogen Energy Storage) Program has been developed to assist with the market adoption of hydrogen energy storage in California. The program aims to provide a better understanding of the role of P2G energy storage and the energy storage role played by hydrogen used as a transport fuel. Experts say that hydrogen energy storage for the grid has the potential of becoming a major business opportunity in California because the state is in the process of increasing its renewable energy-the state is working towards a target of 33% renewables by 2020.
DOE Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program was established to focus on the advanced storage of hydrogen-for vehicles and the distribution system. In early 2010, Honda Motor Company in Torrance, California opened a new more compact and efficient solar-hydrogen refueling station. The station uses 48, 6KW solar panels which produce the electricity needed for hydrogen production through electrolysis. Honda’s very first station was erected in 2001. The latest station is designed to take advantage of “net metering” and potential future “smart grid” developments by exporting electrical power to the grid during the day and then using a similar amount of energy at night during off-peak times when power is usually more cost-effective and plentiful.
Power storage technology should be able to store energy densely in a cost-effective and sustainable manner. SIt should also be returned with a high level efficiency. Energy storage solutions could well be the last hurdle that renewables face.