With a rising share of renewable energies in the total electricity production, it is only a matter of time before the generation of wind and solar energy exceeds the electricity demand at times, and the excess power must be stored or intelligently used. That is why it will be important to store the power in these phases efficiently and cost effectively.
Power-to-hydrogen plants offer a promising solution: By means of flexible electrolysis plants, surplus wind and solar power can be converted into storable hydrogen, which — if necessary — through a further step, can be used as methane or as a pure substance, for example, in the mobility sector or in industry. In addition, electrolysis plants can also participate in the balancing energy market, thus ensuring the stabilisation of power grids. Excess electricity can thus be stored for periods of decreased feeding, or used directly for heat supply and as fuel. An intelligent solution, which BayWa r.e. has already implemented together with their partners!
Our pilot project: The hydrogen filling station in Hamburg
Together with a major international energy company, BayWa r.e. has developed the flexible operation of a hydrogen filling station in Hamburg. Here, the functionality of power-to-hydrogen is clearly visible: in times in which very cheap or surplus electricity is available, an electrolyser converts this power into hydrogen, using the electricity to split water into oxygen (O2) and hydrogen (H2). This process — called electrolysis — enables a temporal decoupling of power generation from the time of consumption, as gases can be stored much more easily than electricity. The stored hydrogen can then be used as fuel for fuel cell automobiles.
Success thanks to flexibility and balancing energy
Today, we are already trying to make the use of power-to-hydrogen technology as economical as possible. In addition to low system expenses, the key to success is currently, of course, cheap electricity. The good response capacity of the plant in Hamburg and the combination with a generously sized hydrogen storage tank, allow us to operate the electrolyser very flexibly: via a fully automated remote control, the electrolysis plant can respond to cheap electricity prices (in day-ahead and intraday trading) on the electricity exchange and adjust power consumption accordingly. The electricity price fluctuations in the respective markets are therefore used optimally. In addition, there is a possibility of providing balancing energy by increasing or decreasing the current consumption for a short time. So, not only can very favourable electricity purchase costs be achieved, but revenues from the balancing energy market can also be realised. The decision when and in which market the use of flexibility makes the most sense and is the most economical is made at BayWa r.e. by the so-called Trading & Operations Cockpit (TOC), jointly by the portfolio managers and the trading team working around the clock.
From our point of view, the power-to-hydrogen project is on the right path to combining the objectives of “flexible green energy storage”, “grid stability” and “CO2-neutral mobility” in an economical and sustainable manner. Only in this way can a complete energy revolution be successful.