- High-tech company generates clean hydrogen from solar energy
Wels / Thalheim (OTS) — The mobility of the future is based on green solutions. The Upper Austrian high-tech company Fronius actively promotes this development and opens the first green, in-house hydrogen refueling system in Austria at the Thalheim site near Wels. The system generates clean hydrogen from solar energy, which can be used to drive fuel cell vehicles.
As part of the energy transition, fossil fuels are to be gradually replaced by renewable energy sources. The aim is to meet the global demand for electricity, heat and mobility exclusively from sustainable sources. For this reason, Fronius International GmbH has been active in the sustainable photovoltaic sector for many years and provides sophisticated solutions for the conversion and storage of solar energy. For example, all the Fronius inverters installed so far produce a total energy amount of 17 TWh in one year, which corresponds to 1.5 times the energy of all Danube power plants.
The name Fronius is not only found worldwide in 1.6 million photovoltaic solutions, but also emerges in connection with the technology of hydrogen. Hydrogen as a storage medium is an important building block for the efficient use of different energy systems. Fronius has been researching this area for many years to bring one step closer to the vision of “24 hours of sunshine” – a vision of a future that will meet the world's energy needs of 100% renewables. With the opening of the first green, in-house hydrogen refueling system, the company is now making a big splash.
“Sustainable thinking is deeply rooted in Fronius. It was already at the very beginning of the company's history, as the starting shot was taken more than 70 years ago out of the long-term idea of extending the short life of car batteries by using existing energy more efficiently. Today, more than ever, we build climate-friendly and environmentally friendly solutions, including mobility. The future of transportation can only happen in one way: without fossil fuels. And this is precisely where our hydrogen technology comes in, ” explains Fronius Managing Director Elisabeth Engelbrechtsmüller-Strauß.
Sustainable pilot plant with future potential
With the so-called Fronius SOLH2UB, a pilot plant is being launched at the development site in Thalheim near Wels, setting new standards. As a decentralized hub for solar energy, the plant is able to generate, store, supply for mobile applications or convert it back into electricity and heat. The components required to convert surplus solar power into hydrogen by means of electrolysis and stationary fuel cells are being developed by Fronius itself.
“The SOLH2UB enables innovative coupling of the electricity, heat and mobility sectors. We are convinced that hydrogen has the potential to become one of the energy sources of the future and to massively drive forward sectoral coupling and thus also the energy transition, ” explains Martin Hackl, Head of the Solar Energy Business Unit at Fronius.
Interesting solution for municipalities and companies
“With the SOLH2UB, for the first time, it is possible to genuinely produce green hydrogen from solar power – right where it's needed,” adds Thomas Rührlinger from Business Development Hydrogen Solutions. This offers companies, commercial enterprises and municipalities numerous advantages: hydrogen can be easily stored and is then available for the operation of vehicles with fuel cell on site or can be backfilled with a stationary fuel cell in the future, if necessary. And the heat generated during production and during reconversion can also be used again on site.
In the area of mobility, hydrogen has enormous potential, especially where vehicles require large amounts of energy. This is especially the case with municipal vehicles, vans, buses or trucks. The energy source promises long ranges and short refueling times – and is produced by Fronius SOLH2UB from 100% renewable sources. “So it's actually solar energy that powers the vehicles. And at the back, only steam comes out, ” concludes Martin Hackl.
HYDROGEN AS THE ENERGY SOURCE OF THE FUTURE
Hydrogen as an energy source – to many people that still sounds like something out of science fiction. But for the past 15 years, Fronius has been working on science fact: researching the potential of H2 for 24 hours of sun, our vision of a world powered by 100% renewable energy.
We asked expert Thomas Rührlinger why the company still believes in the importance of hydrogen for the future of energy. In our interview he describes the potential that hydrogen has to offer, particularly in the commercial and municipal sectors.
MR RÜHRLINGER, WHY IS FRONIUS STILL RESEARCHING HYDROGEN? DIDN’T E-MOBILITY MAKE HYDROGEN REDUNDANT A LONG TIME AGO?
Quite the opposite! When we speak of electric vehicles, we also include those running on electricity generated from hydrogen and oxygen using fuel cells. The combination of hydrogen and batteries enables the respective advantages of both technologies to be harnessed and will play an important role in achieving 24 hours of sun. Hydrogen also helps to bring renewable energy to the mobility sector, allowing the use of fossil fuels to be gradually eradicated overtime.
WHY IS USING HYDROGEN AS A FUEL ADVANTAGEOUS FOR E-MOBILITY?
The use of H2 means shorter refuelling times and increasedrange for e-mobility vehicles, making it increasingly competitive in comparison to fossil fuels. Furthermore, waste heat is an inescapable by-product when hydrogen is generated (electrolysis uses electricity to generate hydrogen and oxygen from water) and consumed (a fuel cell turns hydrogen and oxygen back into electricity and heat). For the commercial sector in particular, this heat can be harnessed very effectively. Fronius is also researching the possibility of using hydrogen for the seasonal storage of renewable energy.
SO, HYDROGEN IS A REAL ENERGY-SECTOR INTEGRATOR!
WHAT MAKES THE SOLUTIONS FROM FRONIUS SO SPECIAL?
Using hydrogen for mobility is nothing new. Hydrogen refuelling stations where you can refuel an H2-powered vehicle already exist. But most of these systems rely on hydrogen that has been generated using fossil fuels, which does nothing to help decarbonise our energy system! As an expert in photovoltaics, Fronius will develop and offer holistic, sustainable solutions in this field.
WHAT WILL THOSE BE?
One pilot project is already being implemented – an inhouse refuelling station for commercial and municipal vehicles at the Thalheim site in Austria. Green hydrogenis generated from PV energy using a high-pressure electrolyser, which can then be used to refuel vehicles or be temporarily stored in steel cylinders. The system also offers the possibility of reconverting the stored H2 back into electricity using a fuel cell.
MR RÜHRLINGER, WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF H2 RESEARCH AT FRONIUS LOOK LIKE? CAN YOU GIVE US AN INSIGHT INTO WHAT IS GOING ON BEHIND THE SCENES?
We believe that hydrogen has an important role to play and we are therefore researching different uses and components. This means that in the future it may be possible for homeowners to seasonally store PV energy generated in the summer for use in winter. Even though such projects are a long way from being a viable commercial solution, we’re investing in them now. We don’t just want to live through the energy revolution; we want to be one of its main protagonists in order to get closer to achieving our goal of 24 hours of sun.