The marriage of renewable power and innovation has transformed the energy industry.
A report by market research firm Guidehouse Insights, Boulder, Colo., highlights one such pairing of clean power with innovative technology, creating a unique form of sustainable energy practice.
Released in the first quarter of 2021, the report, “Distributed Hydrogen Systems Drive Clean Energy Microgrids,” examines the opportunities presented by this combination clean fuel and distributed technology.
The report notes that hydrogen is enjoying a resurgence among energy ecosystem and clean transportation stakeholders.
According to Guidehouse, it was considered the primary alternative to fossil fuels as far back as 20 years ago, but the high cost of generating hydrogen using renewable energy sources stood in the way.
With the dramatically reduced costs of renewable power, hydrogen has once again become a viable alternative.
Guidehouse notes that electricity accounts for 70% of hydrogen production costs by electrolysis—a process that separates hydrogen atoms from water. (Hydrogen can also be produced from methane using a process called steam reforming or partial oxidation, but this method is less preferable as it releases carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide as a byproduct). The steep decline in solar photovoltaic and wind costs in recent years is enabling an emerging green hydrogen economy by making this process more economical.
This dynamic has shifted the focus to the type of infrastructure changes now needed to deliver and use hydrogen in an economical manner.
Enter microgrids, which the study explained, “offer unique applications for distributed hydrogen.”
In particular, they offer solutions in some of the more difficult situations. According to Guidehouse, the majority of microgrids implementing distributed hydrogen systems as of early 2021 have been “remote microgrids” developed in locations where there is no traditional grid, or even a pipeline infrastructure for natural gas that could be repurposed for hydrogen.
Hydrogen was the key enabling technology to reach 100% renewable energy for most of the case studies examined in the report.