Japanese scientists seek to lower costs of PV-powered hydrogen

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A research group from Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science, the University of Tokyo and Hiroshima University has conducted an analysis to assess how storage may help further reduce the costs of solar-driven hydrogen production.

The results of the paper “Battery-assisted low-cost hydrogen production from solar energy: Rational target setting for future technology systems,” published in the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, show the economic efficiency of hydrogen production if it is combined with rechargeable batteries, while also assessing the estimated technology levels necessary for achieving lower costs.

The system designed by the research team is said to be able to gauge of the amount of battery charge and discharge, as well as that of electrolysis hydrogen production in relation to the amount of solar power generated. “The team identified technology levels necessary for the system to produce hydrogen at low cost through a comprehensive analysis of various factors such as rechargeable battery and electrolyzer capacities, considering the future technological advancement,” the National Institute for Materials Science said in a statement released.

The scientists said that rechargeable batteries that can discharge only at a low rate, in particular, have the potential to reduce the costs of hydrogen production from solar source to between ¥17 ($0.15) to ¥27 yen per cubic meter. This, however, may only be possible by around 2030, when this kind of battery is expected to become economically viable, the scientists said.

As a next step, the group of researchers aims now to establish R&D target values to achieve lower costs for this technology, while also creating a proto-type system in order to test the feasibility of renewable energy power generators under output suppression control or restriction to electricity power grid.

Hydrogen and PV is expected to become soon a profitable combination, as recently wrote Stephan Franz for pv magazine. An innovative storage project based on hydrogen was recently announced in Sweden.