Switzerland intends to phase out nuclear power by 2025, so there is a focus on power-to-gas and power-to-hydrogen technologies. The Institute for Energy Technology at the University of Applied Sciences Rapperswil (IET-HSR) has built a 25kW pilot plant to demonstrate power-to-methane technology, which synthesises methane using ambient CO2 and water. Regio Energie Solothurn has also demonstrated a power-to-gas concept that injects hydrogen into the natural gas grid and can provide local storage of surplus renewable energy.
In parallel with these developments, there have been some improvements to electrolysis technologies, including:
Industrie Haute Technologie (IHT) has developed a high-pressure alkaline electrolyser, which is capable of producing hydrogen at 3.2Mpa (32 bar). The system can produce 760 normal cubic metre (Nm3) of hydrogen per hour, at an efficiency of 4.3kWh/Nm3 which includes energy for compression.
EXEN Sarl has created a highly efficient prototype of a 20kW alkaline electrolyser. The system produces hydrogen at pressures in excess of 3Mpa (30 bar). The system takes advantage of new catalyst materials and operates at 120°C.
The demonstration of a new method for efficiently producing hydrogen through water photolysis. The process uses perovskite, photovoltaics and earth-abundant catalysts. The process has achieved an efficiency of 12%. However, the instability of perovskite limits the lifetime of this electrolysis cell.
Switzerland is keen to use power-to-gas technologies for transport applications, with energy utility provider Axpo Holding and retailer Coop having committed to the development of a hydrogen infrastructure and the use of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV). Coop is planning to use fuel cell vehicles in its fleet and is planning to construct a network of hydrogen filling stations. At the same time, Axpo Holding will supply the network with hydrogen that is generated using hydropower. There have been a number of other pilot schemes and projects including:
A hydrogen filling station for buses based in Brugg. The station employs a Hydrogenics alkaline electrolyser that can produce 60Nm3 hydrogen per hour, or 500,000Nm3 of hydrogen annually at 10 bar. The system has an installed capacity of 312kW, an efficiency of 5.2kWh/Nm3 and can store up to 5,000 Nm3 of hydrogen at 410 bar.
A mobility demonstrator at Empa, which produces hydrogen on-site and is capable of dispensing Hydrogen, CNG and HCNG, a combination of hydrogen and CNG.
The development of a high-efficiency PEFC by Belenos Clean Power Holding and the Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI).
Presented by Dr Stefan Oberholzer of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy