In an effort to curb energy bills, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is using Kitakyushu City as a test bed for a hydrogen storage system integrated with controller software, solar panels and industrial CHP (Combined Heat and Power) backup. The City of Yokohama, Toyota City, and Keihanna are also part of the Japan Smart City Portal experiment, which began in 2010 and ends in 2014.

In Kitakyushu City, 100kW of distributed solar panels, a 400kW fuel cell, and a small wind power generator were installed, making up 10 percent of local generation capacity.

Through a Community Energy Management System (CEMS), excess renewable energy can be converted into hydrogen for storage, and the fuel cells can be activated to supply electricity in the event of rising demand.

Kitakyushu Smart Community Creation Project joined forces with Japanese hydrogen producer Iwatani Corporation and component producer Yaskawa Electric Corporation in March. The partners are testing hydrogen storage as a potential improvement on battery storage, which is less compact and can lose energy.

To test ways “to optimize the entire distributed power sources on the power grid,” a hydrogen and fuel-cell storage process was remotely controlled by a PLC based at the municipal Kitakyushu Museum of Natural History and Human History in the Higashida district , according to Japan Smart City Portal. Power Conditioners (PCSs), commonly used in solar applications, control the storage of surplus energy generated by 160kW solar panels installed at the museum and a nursing home for the elderly. “This is the first time PCSs centrally controlled system from a remote location in this way,” project partners said.

PCs supplier Yaskawa Electric Corporation, meanwhile, is hoping to use the results of the experiment for solving solar power problems and use them in a feasibility study, carried out at an industrial estate in Thailand.

The renewables system in Higashida was integrated with a CHP facility owned by Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Tobata Works (Yawata Steel Works). The steel works’ gas-fired CHP facility is to supply up to 20,000kW of electric power, Gas World reported.
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