Grid balancing is the term used to describe the task utility companies have of supplying the correct amount of electricity to the grid. With the recent influx of cheap renewable electricity to national power infrastructure, grid balancing has become increasingly important.
As renewable energy supplies are dependent on natural phenomena they can often provide under and oversupplies of electricity to the grid. If these excesses are not correctly balanced the excess voltage can cause damage to electronics connected to the system.
Conventional grid balancing involves ramping (i.e. increasing) existing power generating infrastructure to smooth out the supply of power. This often involves ramping up power plants which use fossil fuels, which in turn increase fuel consumption (and therefore emissions) and demand more maintenance whilst also reducing efficiency.
Recent calculations stated that approximately 20% of the expected reduction in carbon dioxide, and approximately 100% of the expected reduction of oxides of nitrogen, from using wind and solar power could be lost because of the requirement to ramp power stations.
Balancing the Grid with Hydrogen Generation and Storage
Hydrogen represents a good method of storing the excess energy from oversupply. The excess renewable energy can be used to create hydrogen through the electrolysis of water, and the hydrogen produced can be stored indefinitely with no loss of the energy contained within it.
In times of peak demand when more energy is required by the power grid, this hydrogen can be used in fuel cells or to drive turbines (via combustion) to meet demand without the carbon dioxide emissions associated with fossil fuel combustion.
Hydrogen gas generated from excess electricity can either be injected directly into natural gas pipelines or stored in containers until it is required. As natural gas infrastructure has such a huge capacity, augmenting this existing infrastructure with hydrogen can provide the scale of power required for grid balancing.
Hydrogen Generation Using Proton Exchange Membranes (PEMs)
PEM electrolysis can provide a clean and safe supply of hydrogen at adequate pressure using just electricity and water as feedstocks. PEM technology is a flexible method of addressing the problem of grid balancing as it can be used to quickly absorb any excess energy created by renewable sources and can shut down just as quickly when an excess of power is not being generated.
Proton OnSite is an industry leader in the supply of innovative electrolytic systems for power suppliers, having developed and supplied their technology for more than 20 years. Proton OnSite was one of the first companies to champion the economical production of hydrogen via PEMs. PEM has established itself as a reliable and affordable method of hydrogen generation and is gaining momentum in being a key solution to the problem of grid balancing.
This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Proton OnSite.
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