The reshaping of the energy landscape is well under way. And as the energy industry begins its transformation, it’s become apparent that hydrogen has a major role to play in the new world order – albeit not straightaway, but in the near future. Hence we see every imaginable organization jostling for position to take advantage of this restructuring and perhaps also to shape its direction.
The evocatively named Heidekrautbahn, or heather railroad, has a long history: Since 1905 it’s enabled city dwellers to escape from the German capital into the surrounding Schorfheide countryside to the north. However, efforts to resume the passenger service between Basdorf and Berlin-Gesundbrunnen, which was discontinued in 1983, have been drawn out over many years. On Dec. 14, 2020, a grant was due to be awarded that would make this rail link a vital part of a large-scale hydrogen project. According to the proposals, the trains would be powered by fuel cells using renewable energy supplied from regional sources and an electrolyzer would be acquired along with additional hydrogen vehicles. In spite of these preparations, the pandemic has, nevertheless, put the launch on hold.
As previously announced (see H2-international, August 2020), Daimler Truck and the Volvo Group have embarked upon a joint venture in which each company holds a 50 percent ownership stake. At the beginning of March 2021, the two organizations announced that the company formerly trading as Daimler Truck Fuel Cell GmbH & Co. KG had been renamed cellcentric GmbH & Co. KG.
Off-grid living in Germany and Australia
Energy self-sufficiency, a dream for a number of homeowners, is now gradually becoming a reality. As isolated projects have already demonstrated, it is perfectly feasible to forgo a conventional grid connection and have a property’s entire energy needs met by renewables alone. The technology that makes this possible is on the tipping point of serial production following years of development, a move that could also bring the price down to a more acceptable level in the not too distant future.
Supplying zero-carbon energy to entire districts
An increasing number of building projects are now incorporating an energy supply based on hydrogen and fuel cells. Given the targets set out in the Paris climate agreement, the current thinking is clearly to avoid designing new housing developments that are dependent on fossil fuels and instead switch entirely to renewables. Due to the high expense that is sometimes associated with innovative energy technology, it makes sense to maximize the number of users. Residential neighborhoods in particular, which may run from several dozen homes to a hundred properties, are one way of making this alternative approach worthwhile.
Are fuel cell appliances fed by natural gas fit for the future?
Fuel cell heating appliances have now been on the market for several years. The choice, however, is limited and the prices are high, which explains the slow growth in the number of installations. Yet, perhaps there are other reasons why this section of the market has yet to pick up. For although there is currently a great deal of funding available for initiatives that encourage a switch to energy-efficient heating appliances, particularly when upgrading from an outdated oil-fired system, fuel cell heating units – just like condensing boilers – have the drawback of burning natural gas, thus making them a source of carbon dioxide emissions.
Future accounting calculates sustainability
Money makes the world go round. Companies seek to maximize profits, countries their GDPs. In both cases, we are dealing with figures in dollars, euros or some other currency. But what about values or services without a price tag? Such as employee health. The advice and expertise of colleagues freshly retired. What is the long-term cost of cutting down a forest? How expensive is sustainable (or industrial) farming? So far, most accounting revolves solely around financial issues.
Interview with NOW chief executive Kurt-Christoph von Knobelsdorff
As of May 15, 2020, the National Organization for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NOW) has a new chief executive. Formerly Klaus Bonhoff, who has moved to the German transportation ministry, his successor is Kurt-Christoph von Knobelsdorff. Now is the time to take stock and ask what the future holds.
The growing importance of nickel, tin and copper
New times call for new ideas – and new materials. A global increase in electrification calls for new chemical products. Petroleum catalysts are a major component of the fossil fuel era and must be replaced. The current battle for rare natural resources and chemicals makes it all the more important to invest in research on inexpensive, readily available alternatives. Evidence points to nickel, tin and copper, and their undiscovered properties, as cheaper options. Good news for the electrolyzer and fuel cell industries.
On AFID, EEG, IPCEI, RED II and the Green Deal
Leaders are in the hot seat. The German government is expected to fix it all – the Covid-19 crisis, the climate crisis, the energy crisis, and the auto industry crisis. Summit after summit after summit. We’re hearing an awful lot from the chancellor, ministers, business leaders and lobbyists these days. And comparably little from parliament, where the laws are actually passed. But which political topics or summits are truly relevant to hydrogen and fuel cell technology?