At the beginning of October 2018, Fronius, a power electronics manufacturer based in Pettenbach, Austria, commissioned a demonstration system of a solar-hydrogen fueling station at its research and development facility in Thalheim, near Wels. The business expects the system named SOLH2UB to become not only a part of its 24-hour solar strategy but also a decentralized component of a future hydrogen economy.
Vehicles had already played a key role in Fronius’ corporate strategy when the company was founded in 1945. At that time, Günter Fronius began building a device to charge car batteries by using 50-hertz technology. This was not a common method, just as it is not common today to see someone fill up their vehicle with hydrogen. The company, which has since become well-known for its expertise in welding, solar inverter technology and battery chargers, made a conscious decision to go down that road. On Oct. 12, 2018, it unveiled SOLH2UB, its modular fueling system for hydrogen produced with the help of on-site solar resources. SOLH2UB is short for Solar Hydrogen Hub.
The system’s PEM electrolyzer can produce up to 4.35 kilograms of hydrogen per day. It is not quite enough for the new Nexo SUV, which needs 6.33 kilograms for each fill-up. However, its modular design allows for several modules to be combined, so hydrogen production capacity can be increased to up to 100 kilograms a day.
The electricity required to create the hydrogen is provided by a PV system with 6 kilowatts of capacity. If there is not enough sunlight, the unit will draw electric power from the grid. The gas is stored in 24 cylinders that can hold 50 liters of hydrogen each and a total of 27 kilograms. The installation has also been equipped with a fuel cell, which will convert the gas into electricity and heat when needed.
“SOLH2UB is used as a central hub for solar energy and makes for an innovative combination of producing heat and electricity and powering vehicles,” explained Martin Hackl, who heads the company’s solar energy division, adding that Fronius was convinced green hydrogen would play a larger role in energy supply in the foreseeable future, both as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels in transportation and as renewable energy storage.
The company’s product department began developing hydrogen technology 16 years ago, in line with Fronius’ efforts to grow from an inverter manufacturer into a one-stop solution provider. In 2016, the business started pursuing a 24-Hour Solar strategy, that is, “to create an all-renewable solution for meeting global demand,” as Hackl put it, saying that the aim was to “develop technology to solve the problems associated with intermittent energy sources.” Nowadays, the solar energy division is manufacturing not only inverters for grid-connected PV systems but also monitoring, storage and microgrid equipment.
read more: January issue 2019