Energy Storage: Could Hydrogen be the Answer?

The storage of energy generated from intermittent renewables such as solar power has always been a source of contention in the utility market. Now, the race to devise a reliable storage solution is heating up as the mass of solar and wind installations worldwide reaches critical levels.

Thus far, hydrogen proves to be a frontrunner in the search for the most viable storage solution. Although hydrogen may not be the most efficient when evaluated against options such as pumped hydro, solar thermal, compressed air energy storage (CAES) and electrochemical batteries, it does have many advantages over the other technologies that mean it could be a suitable solution for utility-scale storage of energy from renewables.

Hydrogen has the potential to be an online power source with automatic control that can respond rapidly to correct fluctuations, with a response time of less than a minute. The diversity of applications hydrogen can be utilized for apart from utility-scale storage, may not only fuel its future growth but drive the market and establish hydrogen as the most attractive energy storage solution.

Once hydrogen has been obtained by electrolysis from water, it does not have to be turned back into electricity using a fuel cell. More than simply a route to electricity – it can be used as a fuel to generate heat, like natural gas (it holds nearly four times more energy per mass than natural gas); it can be used as a chemical to make fertilizer and many other compounds; and it can be used in fuel-cell cars.

Furthermore, akin to the way in which fossil fuels are employed in a variety of applications, hydrogen holds the potential to match the efficacy of fossil fuels and more in different industries such as transport, fuel and electricity. Therefore, the flexibility of hydrogen translates into economic flexibility as well whereby, of all the energy storage solutions available, hydrogen is the only one that will be able to cope with ever increasing global demand.

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