French energy company Engie SA is creating a self-contained, small power grid on Semakau Island, just south of Singapore. The power grid is being created to demonstrate how useful hydrogen gas can be in the conversion of wind or solar power into stored fuel for later use.
Costs for solar and wind energy are continuing to drop. As renewable energy comes to make up more of the world’s energy supply, it becomes important to devise effective storage systems that can maximize the utility of the brief yet intense bursts of energy collected by wind and solar power systems.
Battery storage is the primary method by which accumulated energy is stored, but Engie is trying to prove the effectiveness of hydrogen in energy storage. Didier Holleaux, vice president of Engie, says that hydrogen storage has “massive long-term potential.”
Hydrogen storage begins with a chemical process known as electrolysis which splits water into oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen is kept in storage until it is used to generate electricity, by being pumped through fuel cells to generate electricity.
However, hydrogen storage costs would need to come down dramatically for it to be a viable long-term storage potion, with current hydrogen-based storage systems costing almost ten times more than a diesel generator.
Engie wants to use their microgrids to prove how hydrogen storage can be integrated with wind, solar, and diesel power to provide energy to small island communities which are not connected to traditional power plants. Southeast Asia has some 1,000 island populations who do not have access to regular power plants, and if Engie’s plan pays off they could make a strong case for the greater adoption of, and investment in, hydrogen storage systems.