An integrated solar-to-green hydrogen project that uses a “micro-electrolyser” bolted on to the back of a concentrated solar PV (CPV) unit has bagged a €10m ($10m) grant from the Portuguese government.
The grant, from the country’s Recovery and Resilience fund, will go towards Irish-Portuguese developer Fusion Fuel’s €25m plan to deploy 300 of its so-called HEVO-Solar units with on-site vehicle re-fuelling apparatus and associated balance of plant to create a fully integrated 6.6MW solar-to-green H2 fuel station in Sines, Portugal.
Dubbed Hevo-Industria, the scheme is mooted to produce 764 tonnes of green hydrogen per year for use in mobility and industrial applications in the port, or for blending into the natural gas grid. Final investment decision is schedule for 2023.
The HEVO-Solar units incorporate a CPV panel and a lightweight miniature PEM electrolyser in a single module. CPV technology aims to maximise output by using optics to concentrate sunlight to a far greater degree than conventional PV, producing higher conversion but historically with greater equipment costs.
The company claims that the units can capture 100% of the energy of from the sun for use in the electrolyser, achieving 40% solar-electric conversion efficiency with the balance given off as thermal energy. This thermal energy is then used to pre-heat the water fed into the PEM electrolyser, reducing the electrical load required to split the water by roughly 10%.
Fusion Fuel also claims that the units can continue producing hydrogen at night, or at times of low solar irradiation. No-one from the company was available to give specific details at the time of writing, but its website suggests that this is achieved either by accessing grid power, or from secondary sources of generation.
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Maximising the operating hours of the electrolyser will significantly improve its economics. But grid power could be difficult to access for green hydrogen projects in the EU, due to strict additionality rules that prevent producers from using non-dedicated supply unless they can match it with the project’s own renewable resources within the hour.
Nevertheless, bundling up all the elements together can slash the market price of hydrogen, the company says. “On-site production allows us to avoid last-mile logistics of hydrogen, which can add €1-2/kg to the delivered cost to the end user,” says Zach Steele, co-head of Fusion Fuel. “We believe this is a winning strategy for us, particularly as governments in Europe and abroad begin to strengthen their commitment to hydrogen mobility.”
The project is just the latest in Fusion Fuel’s co-located fuelling projects on the Iberian peninsula. In addition to a co-located solar-to-hydrogen plant in Madrid, it also has six similar micro-projects in Portugal in various stages of development —and with various levels of support from the Portuguese government.
“Our ability to deploy decentralised, small-scale green hydrogen production commercially and co-locate it with re-fuelling stations is a meaningful competitive advantage at a time when scale is viewed as the only way to drive down cost,” Steel added.