Fuelled by the rain and sun

Launch of Power to X hydrogen project

On Wednesday, 22 March, a celebration was held for the launch of the Power to X project at the Aqua Trade Fair Netherlands in Gorinchem. This remarkable TKI Water Technology project of KWR, Waternet, VolkerWessels, Stedin, PitPoint and Allied Waters evolves primarily around green hydrogen and subsurface energy storage. Prof. Ad van Wijk (TU Delft/KWR) witnessed the project’s launch, as did various project partners and dozens of visitors to the fair. Naturally, they also came for the spectacular hydrogen car exhibited in the fair’s outdoor area.

Nieuwegein test site

Next to the KWR building, on the site of the Watertransportmaatschappij Rijn-Kennemerland (WRK), Waternet is setting up a solar park over the 2017-18 period. With a production capacity of 8.6MW, the park will primarily supply electricity to the local power network. At the WRK site water from the Lek river has been abstracted, pre-treated and, among other things, transported to the Amsterdam water supply dunes since 1952. To start with, the new solar park will supply electricity to the local power network. At the same time, within the TKI Water Technology Power to X project, research will be conducted into the possibility of converting part of the solar energy produced into other energy carriers (the X variable), such as hydrogen. Hydrogen could in the future become an important energy carrier with multifunctional applications such as mobility, industrial processes and re-electrification.

How does it work exactly?

To begin with, the solar energy produced will be converted into electricity (DC), most of which will then be supplied to the power network via a DC/AC converter. But some of it will be used to produce hydrogen via electrolysis; in this way a small hydrogen economy will be set up. Hydrogen is used in the electric motors of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) to produce the electricity that powers them. When parked, these FCEVs can also supply electricity to the local network, thus functioning as small power stations. The ultra-pure water used in the electrolysis will be produced from the precipitation, which will be captured by the solar panels. In addition, some of the solar energy will be used to heat up the temperature of the Lek water abstracted in the summer. Using a heat exchanger and heat pumps, the water will be heated to a high temperature of 40° to 50 °C; it will then be stored in the subsurface, for later use in the winter to heat neighbouring buildings.

Transition to a circular economy

The fact that this project was launched at the Aqua Trade Fair Netherlands has everything to do with the theme of TKI Water Technology’s stand: cross-sectoral collaborations targeting a circular economy. Power to X is an example of a collaboration between ‘Water’ and ‘Energy’, and contributes to the study of the nature of the dynamic system behaviour of the four subsystems (electricity, heat, hydrogen and water) in this transition. The hydrogen racing car designed by the Forze Hydrogen Electric Racing student team from TU Delft (sponsored by PitPoint) demonstrates that it is already possible: the car fuelled by the rain and sun.