Richard Ha writes:
The University of Hawai‘i’s Hawai‘i Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) is working on a very interesting project. They are going to use geothermal electricity to generate hydrogen to power two County of Hawai‘i buses.
Because the hydrogen will be stored in cylinders, the process can be turned off and on as necessary to help the electric utility stabilize the grid.
The biggest obstacle to using hydrogen as a transportation fuel is cost. Most of the time, hydrogen is extracted from fossil fuels, whose price will keep on rising. But hydrogen can also be obtained by electrolysis – running an electric current through water – at the geothermal plant, where costs are low and stable.
The beginnings of this project date back several years to when we did the E Malama ‘Aina sustainability festival. That’s when and where I met Guy Toyama, who had a demonstration hydrolysis project that used electricity generated from a stream in Hakalau.
Guy has a company that does hydrogen projects. He speaks Japanese and he goes all over the world looking for processes that will make Hawai‘i attractive as a place to do hydrogen demonstration projects. He wants to attract major car companies to do their field testing on the Big Island. If you start seeing hydrogen fueling stations pop up on the Big Island, it will likely be because of him.
At the sustainability festival, Kimo Pa, our Hamakua Springs farm manager, and I saw the hydrogen bubbling up from water that had electricity passing through it. I introduced Guy to the folks in Iowa who were exploring making NH3 (ammonia) for fertilizer and for transportation.
That evolved into asking Rick Rocheleau, head of the HNEI, how we could make hydrogen or NH3 from geothermal energy to use for transportation and fertilizer. Rick got interested and allowed this direction to develop. Mitch Ewan, who is in charge of hydrogen projects at HNEI, is the one who conceived this current project.
The following press release announces that HNEI will soon issue a request for proposals to do this project. None of this would have been possible had it not been for the active support of the folks at Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV), Mike Kaleikini, PGV’s plant manager in particular.
Here is the press release:
Honolulu, HI – The Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii (“RCUH”), on behalf of the University of Hawaii’s Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (UH-HNEI) plans to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) the week of January 4th 2011 for the supply of a “Turn-Key” hydrogen production and fueling system as a component of a Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and US DOE project to demonstrate hydrogen energy systems as a potential grid management tool. The objective of this project is to evaluate the feasibility of utilizing a hydrogen production and storage system to mitigate the impacts of renewable energy generation intermittency on the Big Island electrical grid. A unique element of the overall program is the demonstration of an electrolyzer as a controllable variable load that can provide grid services such as:
· Up regulation;
· Down regulation; and
· Off-peak load (relieving curtailment of as-available renewable energy).
As background, regulation is responsible for maintaining the frequency of the grid at 60 Hz. This is accomplished by using a real-time communication signal directly controlled by the grid operator. The regulation control signal can call for either a positive “Up regulation” or negative “Down regulation” correction. If load exceeds generation, frequency and voltage drop, and the grid operator relays a signal to generators requesting “Up regulation.” When generation exceeds load and frequency increases, the grid operator requests “Down Regulation” and asks generators to reduce generation.
In this mode, the electrolyzer would be operated at a production rate that would be determined by the demand for a combination of transportation fuels, auxiliary power, and chemical feedstock production. The electrolyzer would have the ability to reduce its load (i.e. ramp down) in response to a loss of renewable generation on the system. This capability to quickly drop load is equivalent to “up-regulation” carried by generating units on the system. The hydrogen energy system could also provide a quick transient increase in load (i.e. ramp up) that would be useful in loss-of-load events, such as a loss of transmission lines. For this service, the difference between the maximum capacity of the electrolyzer and the steady state defines the ability of the electrolyzer to provide down regulation. Hydrogen produced from the system could be used for a variety of value-added products, including use as a transportation fuel for two Ford E-450 shuttle buses operated by the County of Hawaii Mass Transportation Agency. Optimized use of the electrolyzer and high value products are intended to increase the use of renewable energy resources, and reduce barriers to the introduction of further hydrogen infrastructure in Hawaii.
The RFP is intended to promote open and transparent competition among parties able to design, fabricate, and install the system at a geothermal plant on the Big Island of Hawaii. A key design driver is the ability for remote monitoring and control of the system over the Internet. This RFP will be technology neutral and any type of electrolyzer i.e Alkaline or Solid Polymer Electrolyte may be proposed. Proposers may include teams comprised of systems integrators and electrolyzer manufacturers. A primary focus of this program is rapid delivery and installation of equipment with a target operational readiness date of August 30th, 2011. When released, the RFP and accompanying information will be published at http://www.hnei.hawaii.edu. Any prospective offeror desiring an explanation or interpretation of the RFP must request it in writing (emailed to: Mitch Ewan at email@example.com) no later than January 31st, 2011 with the subject line “RFP for Turn-Key Hydrogen System.” It is planned to conduct a bidders meeting and / or webinar in Washington DC on January 18th, 2011. Proposals must be received by RCUH no later than 4:00 PM HST, February 15th, 2011.