It’s not the first time someone has tried to use hydrogen storage for making homes energy self-sufficient. The latest company to make the attempt is Home Power Solutions, based in Berlin, Germany. When HPS unveiled its Picea unit in March 2017 at the ISH in Frankfurt am Main, the press seemed to be all over it. This may have had something to do with HPS’ former parent company, Heliocentris, having filed for bankruptcy shortly before the trade show. H2-international sat down for an interview with the managing directors of HPS during Hannover Messe to talk about the company’s history and new developments.
The HPS booth at Hanover’s industrial trade show was comparatively small and did not really stand out either. Had it not been set up directly on the main path through hall 27, it would have hardly been noticed. The Picea unit alone is somewhat of an eye-catcher, although it’s a large gray box that doesn’t have a very distinct look (see fig. 1).
From Heliocentris’ ashes
When speaking to Home Power Solutions’ two founders and managing directors, Henrik Colell and Zeyad Abul-Ella, and the company’s PR consultant, I pretty quickly realized that Heliocentris was far from being a topic they wanted to talk about, though it had to come up at some point. HPS was founded in December 2014 as an independent business with a staff of four, but Colell had likewise been founder and CTO of Heliocentris Energy Solutions until early 2017, while Abul-Ella worked there from October 2012 through December 2014. Zeyad Abul-Ella is also the brother of Ayad Abul-Ella, formerly managing director of Heliocentris Energy Solutions, which went bankrupt last December 2016 – as did Heliocentris Industry, Fuel Cell Solutions, and Academia (see The Break-Up of Heliocentris). On top of that, Ayad Abul-Ella is one of the members of HPS’ supervisory board, together with Hans-Peter Villis, formerly CEO of EnBW and Paul Grunow, board chair of the Reiner Lemoine Foundation, both investors in HPS.
All the founders would say when asked about the timing of events – bankruptcy proceedings underway when Picea was unveiled – was that it had been …
New technology for a do-over
During our conversation, it was especially Colell who seemed to envision a new beginning. The clear intention was to zero in on the future. What he was most concerned with was to offer the “perfect solution for energy self-sufficiency.”
The system relies on an on-site PV system to meet immediate and later power needs (3,000 to 6,000 kilowatt-hours per year based on a PV unit with 10 kilowatts of peak output) entirely through renewables. The design can be used off grid and in virtual networks, where surplus energy could be sold on the power exchange.
Efficient through and through
The solar power is being transferred either directly to the consumer or to the battery or electrolyzer. To store any excess energy, HPS primarily employs heavy, but inexpensive sealed led acid batteries (25 kilowatt-hours). Once they’re at full capacity, the 2.5-kilowatt electrolyzer will use the renewably sourced power to produce hydrogen and store it in 300-bar pressure vessels (tube bundle with 1,000 kilowatt-hours on 5 m2 or 54 square feet). The thermal energy released during storage remains in the system.
Similarly, the 1.5-kilowatt low-temperature fuel cell will provide electrical energy when there’s demand – meaning the sun doesn’t shine and the battery is empty – and releases heat during the process. In winter, this thermal energy is transferred directly to the 45-kilowatt-hour hot water boiler through the installed ventilation unit, increasing overall efficiency to around 90 percent, a comparatively high value, although the fuel cell will “only” be at 55 to 60 percent. Still, the system would not just cut the next electricity bill down to zero, but lower heating costs too, the managing directors said.
Colell and Abul-Ella stressed that the “energy management application was developed in-house” and was a core competency of HPS. Second after second, the software tool received more than 500 input variables (e.g., weather info), meaning it could simulate and manage every building supply scenario imaginable.
The crucial aspects were …
By its own account, safety is important to HPS: The prototype in Berlin was TÜV-approved. A handful of field test units are said to come online at several locations in Germany this year. The sale of devices will reportedly start as early as this year; delivery is scheduled for 2018. The price tag would be in the mid-five figures, Abul-Ella said.
All in all, the design may still be relatively complex and costly, but both managing directors were confident that the eco-power industry had a sufficiently large customer base interested in off-grid solutions. “The first few trade shows have created quite a promising outlook,” Abul-Ella said. He also stressed that he was “intrinsically motivated” and fully believed in the feasibility of the HPS unit.
Several years ago, Austrian-based Fronius had already designed a system similar to the units by HPS and Mossau. Fronius set up an energy supply system on its premises to use solar energy for producing hydrogen, which was in turn used to power forklift trucks in the factory hall. However, according to Fronius employees, development is not going on.