Test Field for Electrolyzers and Hybrid Power Plants

Thinking of wind energy and hydrogen together

Fraunhofer IWES contributes to making wind energy more cost-effective, for example, by increasing system availability, improving efficiency, and reducing operational and component costs. When there is an oversupply of renewable energies in the grid at present, wind turbines are often switched off so as not to overload the grid – or the electricity is sold abroad below price. The so-called “excess electricity” thus forces down the profitability and is not beneficial to public acceptance. Its use to produce hydrogen, which serves as a chemical energy store, can help solve this dilemma – it is transportable, can be stored indefinitely, has a wide range of potential uses, and can be reconverted to electrical energy via combustion or in a fuel cell. However, the conversion of “excess electricity”, which only occurs temporarily, is not sufficient as the sole basis for a hydrogen economy.

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Making interaction efficient and smooth

Fraunhofer IWES is therefore conducting research into, among other things, how the interaction of wind energy and hydrogen production, conversion, and grid integration can be designed as efficiently and smoothly as possible. Climate-neutral hydrogen production in particular is necessary on a large scale for the decarbonization of existing industries. Hydrogen and hydrogen-based synthesis products are key elements of the energy transition and for achieving climate goals.

The German government’s national hydrogen strategy envisages the construction of generation plants with up to 10 GW of electrolysis capacity in Germany by 2030 – including the energy generation required for this. Within this time frame, industrial-scale solutions are also to be prepared and ultimately brought to application maturity. 

Science: Innovation for a holistic hydrogen economy

Here, innovation is the key driver for the sustainable establishment of a holistic hydrogen economy. The Fraunhofer Hydrogen Labs are accelerating the progress to market ramp-up in concrete terms by:

  • establishing standardization and certification processes
  • optimizing hybrid power plants (e.g., wind turbines and electrolyzers) across systems
  • optimizing new operational management and control concepts for electrolyzers in combination with wind turbines and photovoltaics as well as the further use of H2 in PtX processes
  • further developing materials and components and making their production and manufacture more efficient
  • validating and making available accelerated life span tests for energy systems with complex, variable environmental factors
  • enabling investigations of pure island grid operation

The combination of methodological expertise and unique research infrastructure has created an innovative cooperation platform for industry and research. In the test facilities, experimental data concerning materials and systems are collected at different levels – from the cell to the laboratory stack right up to the industrial stack/system level. These data are evaluated and merged into a common data space. Modeling and optimization are then performed based on an extensive data base and a deeper understanding of the material and component properties. The measurement data from the shared Hydrogen Data Space are also integrated in the simulation. The validation of electrolysis systems in the MW range provides key information for the further development of products and systems and their interaction with the power grid and the chemical industry of the future.

Furthermore, testing methods for the desalinization of sea water are developed at Fraunhofer IWES. This enables us to answer questions concerning long-term stability and dynamic operation modes coupled with wind turbines and electrolyzers. This knowledge is the basis for the production of green hydrogen on offshore platforms. The waste heat from the electrolysis process is used for the further procedure, which permits the enhancement of energetic efficiency.

Virtual test benches for large generation units

For wind turbine manufacturers, determination of the electrical properties of the individual turbine is still decisive for their type certification; for wind farm developers and operators, in contrast, it is the electrical properties of the wind farm as a whole which are most relevant. However, direct validation in the classic way (field test, wind turbine system test bench) is no longer possible.

The increased demand for the validation of the electrical properties of ever-larger generation/consumption units requires a change of thinking: the electrical properties and functions are described per component with the help of EMT models. This results in component models which can be assembled to form a complete model in the next step. Test scenarios are then simulated at local energy system level (virtual test), the results of which describe the electrical properties. The validity and accuracy of individual EMT models is verified in a special test bench test.

Combination of methodological expertise and unique research infrastructure

 

Hydrogen Labs

Bremerhaven, Leuna, Görlitz

 

Application Center for Integration of Local Energy Systems (ILES)