A key challenge with producing electricity from wind turbines and solar panels is similar to capturing lightning in a bottle. Meanwhile, amid low demand, both wind and solar are increasingly used to generate electricity in the scenario of low prices to cover costs.
In fact, on sunny days, wholesale power prices at locations with high quality of wind and solar occasionally drop below zero.
In fact, some renewable energy makers store excess electricity as green hydrogen, to use the electricity to generate hydrogen from water.
According to estimations, the global hydrogen market is valued at US4 125 Bn for use in fertilizers, fuels, and other chemicals. The hydrogen market is growing fast due to the increasing interest in hydrogen as a fuel for trucks, buses, and even ships.
The challenge is producing hydrogen with electricity remains considerably expensive, so remains only profitable to sell at higher prices to lower-volume customers.
This aroused interest of researchers at Stanford University and University of Mannheim to discover a possible solution: integrated changeable power-to-gas systems that can easily change hydrogen back to electricity when power prices shoot up higher.
The study published in Nature Communications reports economic feasibility of reversible fuel as a source of backup electricity during periods of shooting prices, such as the Texas incident in 2021 when winter storms devastated power plants powered by natural gas.
The ability to switch directions allows the entire system to run closer to full capacity, finds the study. This reduces the cost to produce both carbon-free electricity and carbon-free hydrogen.
Meanwhile, the global movement for renewable energy sources is leading to power markets to become increasingly volatile. The work shows that changeable power-to-gas systems are advancing well to become a cost-effective technology for smoothening power supply.