The world’s first full-scale hydrogen hybrid power plant
- Oct 20, 2021 1:18 pm GMT
We know that green hydrogen forms an excellent long-term energy storage. We’ve also been hearing some buzz about green hydrogen enabling power-to-power storage on a large scale by 2050. Indeed such storages would be indispensably vital if we want to build an energy system that produces net-zero carbon emissions. Green hydrogen will allow us to store energy as well as enable re-electrification in H2-capable gas turbines, engines, or fuel cells to ensure sufficient electricity in periods of low renewable energy supply, e.g., lack of wind.
Hybrid power plants can help us optimally realize our energy system goals, as they will include power generation from renewable energy sources, various storage technologies, and grid stability services.
Since 2019 Siemens Energy has been in talks about building the first large-scale hydrogen state-of-the-art hybrid power plant, which would be located in French Guiana. In March 2020, we became the preferred bidder selected by CEOG, a project company owned by Meridiam as majority shareholder, HDF, and SARA. And now I’m pleased to say: It’s official! We’re building a hybrid power plant on a turnkey basis near Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni in northwestern French Guiana. It will supply 10,000 households around the clock with electricity generated solely from solar power in a climate-neutral process. This will be possible by combining a 55-megawatt photovoltaic field with batteries, an electrolyzer and the largest fuel cell of its kind for power applications. All this without pollution, supply logistics, and fuel imports. Ensuring a reliable, safe, and independent power supply, the new plant is scheduled to be commissioned in the fall of 2023.
How will all these different components work together? Depending on the demand, part of the electricity produced by the PV will be delivered directly to consumers, another part will be stored in a large-scale battery with a capacity of 40 megawatt-hours (MWh), and a further part will be converted into hydrogen in an electrolyzer. In cloudy weather or when insufficient solar irradiation occurs, electricity will be fed from the battery into the grid. At night the stored hydrogen will be converted back to electricity using the fuel cell. Thanks to this forceful combination of photovoltaics, batteries, the electrolyzer and fuel cell, the hybrid power plant will provide an electrical output of 10 MW during the day and 3 MW at night.
For hybrid power plants, the key to success is integrating the different technologies. Intelligent control technology will ensure that the plant will have an optimal dispatch based on the interaction of the various components. The hybrid controller will use the weather forecast as an important input parameter for this dispatch optimization.
This is quite impressive. Although it’s been two and a half years ago since I helped breathe life into this project, to this day, I never lose sight of what this power plant will do, how its setup was customized for the site, or how the controls ensure that consumers will get electricity. Why? Because this plant gives us a glimpse of a decarbonized energy future – one that shows us that it can be done. By no means will this be merely a demonstrator or a pilot project. It will be real a full-scale commercial power plant. The CEOG hybrid plant is also benefitting from the French regulatory framework, which supports hybrid plants including green hydrogen production.
As we go forward, with the powers of scale and the sheer necessity of combatting climate change, I have no doubt that hybrid power plants like these will be the building block of a new decarbonized energy system.
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