2.1. Clean energy system

Hydrogen technology has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the air quality (SOx, NOx, etc.). In 2015, an agreement was signed in Paris by 195 countries with the objective to keep global warming well below 2 ˚C. Hence, adopting this technology will help to honor the agreement by enabling the transition to a clean, low-carbon energy system.

Hydrogen has an important role to play in the transition to renewable energy. Through electrolysis, it is possible to produce hydrogen by using excess power, then store it and reuse it in the future (e.g. produce in summer and use in winter). This ability helps optimize the power system for renewables, which will facilitate the increase of their share in the energy mix.

2.2. The hydrogen importance

Hydrogen can be transported as a standard hydrocarbon, and its transportation does not need a balance between consumers and producers—as in the case of electricity transmission lines—since it also can be stored near the end user. This contributes to supply security at both national and local levels. In addition, nowadays, fossil fuels can be substituted with hydrogen to store the buffer of energy necessary to ensure demand is met and the energy system functions smoothly.

Hydrogen allows storing energy in chemical form that can be used, for example, in hydrogen internal combustion engines, which use combustion to generate power. Or in fuel cells to generate power using a chemical reaction with only water and heat as byproducts. In both cases, it can be used in cars and houses, for portable power, and for many more applications. Furthermore, when all the elements of the cycle of renewable hydrogen are working together it will become a closed loop cycle and the system can be CO2 neutral.

2.3 Hydrogen can make heavy transport green

For heavy transport (such as ships and aircraft), batteries or fuel cells are less suitable. The batteries in such an application must be so large that the cost and weight make it economically impossible. Also a realistic charging time is no longer feasible.

Fuel cells have more possibilities in this area, but due to the high cost, they are also less suitable for commercial large transport.

As soon as green ships or planes are required, one must look out for bio- or hydrogen-based fuels.

2.4. Interesting projects: energy observer

Energy Observer will be the “first hydrogen vessel around the world”. The 100-foot-long vessel is capable of producing its hydrogen “live” during stopovers and navigation. It will act as a floating smart grid system, absorbing solar, wind and wave energy. It draws its power directly from the nature, without harming it. The vessel was launched in April 2017.

Energy Observer hydrogen ship (energy-observer.org)

2.5. Interesting projects: public transport on hydrogen

The European HyFLEET:CUTE project has involved the operation of 47 hydrogen powered buses in regular public transport service in 10 cities on three continents. The project started in 2006 and concluded at the end of 2009. It aimed to diversify and reduce energy consumption in the transport system by developing new, fuel efficient hydrogen powered bus technology, plus clean, efficient and safe production and
distribution of hydrogen as a transport fuel.

There were 33 buses using fuel cell technology, 14 buses using internal combustion engines (ICEs) and 1 bus with both, using the fuel cell as auxiliary power.

During the project the following figures were achieved:

  • More than 8.5 million passengers transported
  • More than 555 thousand kg of hydrogen refueled
  • More than 2.5 million kilometers driven
  • 4 years of safe operation

Van Hool’s hydrogen bus for public transport in Antwerp, Belgium

2.6. Interesting projects: School campus on Hydrogen

With the solar panels installed on the roofs of some school, it will be possible to generate hydrogen with the extra energy produced during summer and later on it could be used during winter. An example is one of the campuses of Griffith University in Australia, which can run fully off-grid with renewable hydrogen supplying all its energy needs.

Griffith campus in Australia (Ned Pankhurst, tradelineinc.com)

previous chapter: what is hydrogen? next chapter: how is hydrogen produced?


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