Hydrogen as the energy source of the future

Innovation

10/11/2018

Hydrogen as an energy source – to many people that still sounds like something out of science fiction. But for the past 15 years, Fronius has been working on science fact: researching the potential of H2 for 24 hours of sun, our vision of a world powered by 100% renewable energy.

We asked expert Thomas Rührlinger why the company still believes in the importance of hydrogen for the future of energy. In our interview he describes the potential that hydrogen has to offer, particularly in the commercial and municipal sectors.

Fronius SolH2ub

Mr Rührlinger, why is Fronius still researching hydrogen? Didn’t e-mobility make hydrogen redundant a long time ago?

Quite the opposite! When we speak of electric vehicles, we also include those running on electricity generated from hydrogen and oxygen using fuel cells. The combination of hydrogen and batteries enables the respective advantages of both technologies to be harnessed and will play an important role in achieving 24 hours of sun. Hydrogen also helps to bring renewable energy to the mobility sector, allowing the use of fossil fuels to be gradually eradicated overtime.

Why is using hydrogen as a fuel advantageous for e-mobility?

The use of H2 means shorter refuelling times and increasedrange for e-mobility vehicles, making it increasingly competitive in comparison to fossil fuels. Furthermore, waste heat is an inescapable by-product when hydrogen is generated (electrolysis uses electricity to generate hydrogen and oxygen from water) and consumed (a fuel cell turns hydrogen and oxygen back into electricity and heat). For the commercial sector in particular, this heat can be harnessed very effectively. Fronius is also researching the possibility of using hydrogen for the seasonal storage of renewable energy.

So, hydrogen is a real energy-sector integrator!
What makes the solutions from Fronius so special?

Using hydrogen for mobility is nothing new. Hydrogen refuelling stations where you can refuel an H2-powered vehicle already exist. But most of these systems rely on hydrogen that has been generated using fossil fuels, which does nothing to help decarbonise our energy system! As an expert in photovoltaics, Fronius will develop and offer holistic, sustainable solutions in this field.

What will those be?

One pilot project is already being implemented – an inhouse refuelling station for commercial and municipal vehicles at the Thalheim site in Austria. Green hydrogenis generated from PV energy using a high-pressure electrolyser, which can then be used to refuel vehicles or be temporarily stored in steel cylinders. The system also offers the possibility of reconverting the stored H2 back into electricity using a fuel cell.

Mr Rührlinger, what does the future of H2 research at Fronius look like? Can you give us an insight into what is going on behind the scenes?

We believe that hydrogen has an important role to play and we are therefore researching different uses and components. This means that in the future it may be possible for homeowners to seasonally store PV energy generated in the summer for use in winter. Even though such projects are a long way from being a viable commercial solution, we’re investing in them now. We don’t just want to live through the energy revolution; we want to be one of its main protagonists in order to get closer to achieving our goal of 24 hours of sun.