Hydrogène de France (HDF) Energy’s French Western Guiana power project plans a 55-megawatt solar farm with hydrogen storage to deliver steady, clean power regardless of whether the sun is shining. This proposed plant on the Caribbean coast is due to be supported by secondary battery storage and commission by 2020.
The €90-million scheme is projected to generate a fixed output of 10MW in the daytime and 3MW, and 140 MW-hours per day.
HDF said the project “is expected to revolutionise the energy sector and mark the start of a new era in energy delivery”.
It said it would be the world’s largest plant using renewables to generate hydrogen.
The administration of French President Emmanuel Macron is pushing hydrogen generation from solar and wind as a means to address the limitations of battery technology.
France’s minister of the environment Nicolas Hulot said the government would invest more than US$100 million in the sector by 2019 to develop hydrogen energy.
“Hydrogen can play an extremely important role in the power transition,” Hulot told the media.
Paris believes the commercial possibilities for hydrogen are huge, saying it could power the 21st century.
Hydrogen still poses scientific challenges, and the process of obtaining it remains expensive as electrons from the solar panels have to go through more conversions than in a standard lithium-ion battery.
For the South American project, around 15MWh of battery capacity a day would provide a reserve for cloudy days, said Jean-Noel de Charentenay of HDF Energy.
The tropical location, Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, is purportedly mostly overcast for eight months of the year and HDF conceded that equatorial French Guiana was “not the best region for solar resource … The configuration would have been better in a sunny region.”
HDF said 16MW of the output from its 55MW capacity would be used to create hydrogen with an electrolyser with 80-per-cent efficiency.
It is projected that the fuel cell would convert this back to energy at 47-per-cent efficiency, producing an overall efficiency of an estimated 38 per cent for hydrogen storage.
Unlike batteries, hydrogen power can be stored long-term and together with solar and wind power, this molecule will have an important part to play in countries keeping their green promises, said Philippe Boucly, president of France’s association for hydrogen and fuel cells.
There have been doubts raised about fuel-cell potential with GTM’s “Wesoff’s Wall” pointing to hydrogen companies’ seeming inability to secure profitability.
Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni. Picture credit: Wikimedia