100% renewable targets will require power storage to manage flows on the net
Electrolysers utilise these intermittent power flows to produce H2 gas from water
H2 gas can be stored in large quantities underground and transported via existing gas pipelines
H2 vehicles recharge faster and are more durable than battery powered transport
Growing H2 demand in industrial processes will reduce costs and increase supply

As temperatures surge in Europe over the last weeks, a few soothing H2 solutions to alieviate hot energy issues:
1. Microsoft’s “coming out” on July 27, 2020 stood out in supporting hydrogen integration presenting a worldwide first with fuel cells  powering a row of datacenter servers for 48 consecutive hours as part of the the company’s commitment to be carbon negative by 2030. Diesel fuel accounts for less than 1% of Microsoft’s overall emissions used in their Azure datacenters’ diesel-powered generators support continuous operations in the event of power outages.

“They are expensive. And they sit around and don’t do anything for more than 99% of their life,” said Mark Monroe, a principle infrastructure engineer on Microsoft’s team for datacenter advanced development. What’s more, he added, an Azure datacenter outfitted with fuel cells, a hydrogen storage tank and an electrolyzer that converts water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen could be integrated with the electric power grid to provide load balancing services.

For example, the electrolyzer could be turned on during periods of excess wind or solar energy production to store the renewable energy as hydrogen. Then, during periods of high demand, Microsoft could start up the hydrogen fuel cells to generate electricity for the grid. Hydrogen-powered long-haul vehicles could pullup at datacenters to fill their tanks.“All of that infrastructure represents an opportunity for Microsoft to play a role in what will surely be a more dynamic kind of overall energy optimization framework that the world will be deploying over the coming years,” said Lucas Joppa, Microsoft’s chief environmental office who recently became Microsoft’s representative in the Hydrogen Council

Microsoft strives to provide Azure datacenter customers “five-nines” of service availability, which means that the datacenter is operational 99.999% of the time. Backup generators are fired up during power grid outages and other service interruptions: 48 hours of backup power generation, each datacenter would require up to 100,000 kilograms of hydrogen to fuel the backup generators for an extended power outage, Monroe said.

“What if you could take all of these assets the datacenter has and integrate them into the grid in a way that helps to further accelerate decarbonization of the grid more broadly rather than just a point solution for the datacenter itself,” he said. “That’s where I think all of this gets interesting.”

2. A cool sea breeze was coming in the announcement of Shell in  July 2020 that Shell and Eneco were awarded the tender for the subsidy-free offshore wind farm Hollandse Kust (noord). The 759MW wind farm will help to meet the objectives of the Dutch Climate Agreement and the EU’s Green Deal. Both companies have already taken their final investment decisions on the project. The project is located 18.5 kilometres off the Dutch coast, covers an area of 125 square kilometres and is due online in 2023.

In announcing the winning bidder, the Dutch government highlighted CrossWind’s commitment to “test a variety of innovations in the field of energy storage and flexibility” at the project. Shell said the offshore wind farm will include five technology demonstrations that could be implemented at full-scale in the future. The project will feature a floating solar park, short-term battery storage and turbines that are optimally tuned to the network to minimise the negative ‘wake’-effects that wind turbines have on each other. Power from the project will also be used to produce green hydrogen made by electrolysis as a further storage technique. “The combination of these individual measures (will) ensure a continuous power supply regardless of the wind situation,” Shell said.

photo: Courtesy Rabobank and Eneco