German conglomerate Siemens has started operations at a plant at Energiepark Mainz, where hydrogen will be produced from excess wind power to be re-used as a general fuel or in natural gas pipelines.
The €17m energy storage project has been developed in collaboration between Stadtwerke Mainz, Linde, Siemens and the RheinMain University of Applied Sciences.
The project has been funded by the Energy Storage Funding Initiative and supported by German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology.
An electrolyser from Siemens will feature at the facility. This will be based on Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) technology, which will enable capture and storage of electricity into hydrogen for later use.
The plant will be able to process up to 6MW of power and will be the largest PEM installation globally.
The technology is expected to convert surplus power generated at wind farms to hydrogen. It has also been tested by another German firm, RWE.
Siemens has been collaborating with the Mainz energy utility, industrial gases company Linde, and the Rhein-Main University of Applied Sciences for the new technology development.
Linde will deal with the cleaning, compressing, storage and distribution of the hydrogen generated at the facility. The firm can dispense it for industrial usage, or send it to hydrogen-based car filling stations or into gas pipeline network via tanker lorries.
The Linde Group CEO Dr Wolfgang Büchele said: "Fuel-cell drive technology has advanced greatly and is now being launched to the market.
"If this technology is adopted on a wide enough scale, it has the potential to significantly reduce traffic-related environmental pollution.
"Energiepark Mainz has the capacity to produce enough hydrogen for around 2,000 fuel-cell cars."
The energy park can also help to prevent bottlenecks in the local distribution grid and stabilise the power supply of smaller wind parks.
Siemens board member Professor Siegfried Russwurm said: "The energy systems of tomorrow will be much more complex, integrated and flexible than they are today.
"The PEM electrolyser is an important building block in the new energy mix.
"Hydrogen electrolysis is a great way to feed renewable energies, in particular, more efficiently into power grids. It can be used to dynamically capture, store and harness energy that is not currently needed."
Image: The facility will be the largest PEM installation worldwide. Photo: courtesy of Siemens AG.