Aug 24 2012

Generating renewable electricity with Solar and Fuel Cell

Generating renewable electricity is an important way to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and many countries are installing wind and solar power plants to help meet targets for cutting CO2. One drawback of these energy sources is their variability: the wind tends to blow intermittently and solar power is only available during the daytime. Hence renewable power plants either have to be over-engineered to take account of this lower capacity factor, or they must be supported by spinning reserve power stations, typically fast-response open-cycle gas turbines – which goes against the environmental aims of the projects.

Ideally, excess renewable energy generated during times of plenty can be stored for use during periods when sufficient electricity is not available. But storing this energy is a difficult task: batteries and similar technologies perform well over short timescales, but over periods of weeks or months a different approach is necessary. Energy storage in the form of hydrogen is one such possibility: excess electricity is fed into an electrolyser to split water into its constituent parts, oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen is then used in fuel cells to produce electricity when needed, releasing the stored energy back to the grid.

This process allows excess energy produced in solar power plants to be stored and used, instead of wasted. Increasing the utilisation of renewable power plants helps to maximise the return on investment and lower the cost of electricity. The need for spinning reserve is also reduced as these facilities now have stored energy which can be readily converted back to electricity when required. Hydrogen can also be produced in a number of ways from biomass, allowing for the integration of this energy source in a complete renewable energy system. The most efficient way to convert hydrogen back to electricity is via fuel cells. This is not confined to grid electricity: in certain cases the stored hydrogen can be diverted for sale as fuel to fuel cell electric vehicle owners.

Fuel cells and electrolysers are complementary technologies. An electrolyser cell is much like a fuel cell run in reverse, using electricity instead of producing it. Commercial electrolyser technology is widely available and includes both proton exchange membrane and alkaline electrolysers.

As pure hydrogen is the fuel produced in this scenario, any type of fuel cell can be used to convert this into electricity in stationary power generation. For fuel cell vehicles, the technology of choice is proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC).

GENPORT has designed a portable power source, based on the hybrid concept integrating solar photovoltaic panels with a PEM fuel cell system to temporary generate electric energy in any off grid remote contest, providing continuously peak and constant power without external fuel, thermal signature and noise

This is a configurable system, based on the following modules: a retractable photovoltaic primary source of energy, a PEM fuel cell a PEM electrolyzer and solid hydrogen storage system.

The result is an innovative system for rapid deployment with enough power capacity to fulfill the demand of small loads as tactical communication systems.

GenPort 300 Hybrid PEM Solar with a granted patent (nr.0001394308) is a unique example of zero impact power source suitable as APU for small yacht allowing ocean navigation as well as to temporary power emergency electromedical devices, in an area devastated by natural disaster.

There are many possible configuration of the energy flow among the primary PV energy generator, the PEMFC, the PEM electrolyzer and the load.

When the daylight is available, the retractable PV panel powers directly the load and exceeding energy charges the battery pack or is utilized to power the PEM electrolyzer to convert and storage additional energy in hydrogen; if the adsorption of energy exceeds the capacity of the expandable PV panel or in case of a power failure, the battery pack and the PEMFC can dynamically contribute to strike an energy balance with also the eventual contribution of an external hydrogen source (GenFuel).

G300 HPS concept is multifunctional, configurable; it produces electric energy, pure hydrogen, water, and ozone for water purification.

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