Cheap, Renewable Hydrogen is Coming

Hydrogen gas: it’s storable, can refuel a car in minutes (versus batteries which can take hours to recharge), and its waste product is water. It is the holy grail of clean-energy advocates.

The only problem is that the electrolyzers that make hydrogen from renewable energy are quite expensive. But, that soon may change, according to Ars Technica.

According to a new paper in Nature Energy, researchers from universities in Germany and at Stanford University have created a financial model for a wind farm connected to a hydrogen electrolyzer.

Using research from “journal articles, industry data, publicly available reports, and interviews with industry sources,” the researchers built a theoretical model to determine whether wind energy paired with an electrolyzer could be profitable. The system was normalized to a one-kilowatt system (a common technique for this kind of economic modeling) and assumed to be paired with a polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolyzer, “which can be ramped up rapidly and attain a near-constant efficiency once a small threshold utilization has been reached,” the paper noted.

In the model, an investor could either sell all the electricity back to the grid, or, when electricity prices were low, it could use that energy to run the PEM electrolyzer and sell the resulting hydrogen at market prices. The price of electricity was based on historical prices observed in Germany and Texas every hour for a year.

The researchers determined that to build a system with both wind and a hydrogen electrolyzer, the break-even price for hydrogen needs to be €3.23 per kilogram in Germany and US$3.53 per kilogram in Texas.

And, as the cost of wind turbines and electrolyzers continue to fall annually, the capacity factor of wind turbines continues to increase. The researchers suggest that “in about a decade, renewable hydrogen will also become competitive with the lower prices paid for large-scale industrial hydrogen.”

Read the full article here.

It seems their predictions are not far off, as the move to clean energy resources is one that has been gaining much traction over the years. In 2018, California committed to going 100 percent carbon-free by 2045. That year, Germany also welcomed two of their first, state-of-the-art hydrogen-powered trains known as Coradia iLint trains—with 14 more hydrogen-powered trains expected to be delivered before 2021. All big steps towards Germany’s goal to lower transportation-related emission.

They’re not alone. Scientists and engineers continue to seek new alternatives to create green energy. For this reason, researchers from around the world will come together at the 235th ECS Meeting to discuss the future of energy technology. ECS meetings offer researchers the opportunity to come together, attend events, share results, and discuss ideas in the field, as well as a multitude of other disciplines, all within the electrochemical and solid state sciences. Meet the innovators of today and leaders of tomorrow this fall.

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