Renewable energy production has the inherent flaw of the intermittency of its fuel source. For this reason, it is critical that new methods of energy storage are invented to make up for the times when electric supply is lacking.
Hydrogen is a powerful fuel source and has real potential for solving the intermittency problem for renewable energy generation.
Today, there are two commercial plants and dozens of research plants using hydrogen in various configurations to store electric capacity from renewable energy, which is usually for wind powered generation.
Using a device called an electrolyzer, electricity creates high-purity hydrogen gas which can be stored in tanks or underground for later use as demanded. When electricity is required – and the wind turbines or solar panels aren’t producing energy – hydrogen can be burned in a combustion turbine or a fuel cell to produce electricity.
Grid stabilization and load management efforts by utility companies (ie “Smart Grid”) can be achieved through hydrogen backup storage, providing immediate generation to smooth supply at times when demand is not predicted properly.
Unlike traditional electricity generating technology, Hydrogen is a much more powerful fuel source, starting combustion turbines in 10 minutes or less and from a fuel cell in seconds. Hydrogen generation can thus be used for peaking, and also for backup which is massively important for businesses that rely on steady power for biological monitoring and data management.
Because energy is stored rather than wasted when overproduced, hydrogen energy solutions enable energy generators to recoup original infrastructure investment (ie wind turbines) faster. This mitigates some risk of the volatile energy market where supply rarely coincides closely with demand.
In the next 5 years, the deployment of larger and more complex hydrogen energy systems is expected.