Wind & PV being turned into green gas

2. May 2019

 

Reversible Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (RSOFC) system

As part of a research project, Graz University of Technology, along with its project partners VERBUND and German firm Sunfire, is setting up a demonstration plant at the thermal power station in Mellach, intended to investigate whether carbon-neutrally produced hydrogen can be used in the plant as a replacement for fossil gas. The Hotflex pilot plant takes surplus wind and solar power from the grid and con-verts it to hydrogen using high-temperature electrolysis. A carbon neutral fuel, this “green” hydrogen is mixed with natural gas to drive the two gas turbines.


 

Green hydrogen for Mellacher gas turbines


The Mellach gas-fired power plant, commissioned in 2012, is the most powerful power plant in Austria with an electrical output of 838 megawatts. In use for supraregional grid support, it makes a significant contribution to the nationwide security of electricity supply. The two highly efficient gas turbines are operated to date only with fossil fuel natural gas. As part of the research project “Hotflex” the energy provider VERBUND will now test for the first time the partial substitution of natural gas by climate-neutral hydrogen – in real power plant applications.

 
Excess wind and solar energy can be stored as hydrogen

The starting point for the new facility is the accelerated expansion of renewable energies throughout Europe. In order to store wind and solar power on an industrial scale, pumped storage power plants are currently available. In Austria alone, hundreds of additional wind power and photovoltaic plants will be built in the coming years on the basis of the energy and climate strategy, and their power generation is strongly dependent on the weather.
With the “Hotflex” pilot plant, excess wind and solar energy can be taken from the grid and converted into hydrogen using high-temperature electrolysis. This “green” hydrogen is to be added to the natural gas to drive the two gas turbines as a climate-neutral fuel. The hydrogen is to be produced directly at the power plant site by high-temperature electrolysis with a production capacity of 40 Nm³ / h.

 

Pilot plant can deliver electricity and heat as a fuel cell

A special feature of the Mellacher pilot plant, whose components are manufactured by the Green Tech company Sunfire in Dresden, is the reversible operating mode as a fuel cell. This allows the system to produce electricity and heat from natural gas. VERBUND will test this fuel cell operating mode primarily with regard to the options for self-powered or emergency power supply of power plants and industrial plants.

Three-year research project with Graz University of Technology

The research operation will be carried out by the Competence Center Thermal Power of VERBUND together with Graz University of Technology and Sunfire in the next three years. Thereafter, the research facility in Mellach is to be continued in accordance with the requirements of VERBUND’s control energy market. The research project is funded under the “Horizon 2020” program of the European Union (No 779481) and funded by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency.

 

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