Integration and dynamics of a renewable regenerative hydrogen fuel cell system




Bergen, Alvin P

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This thesis explores the integration and dynamics of residential scale renewable-regenerative energy systems which employ hydrogen for energy buffering. The development of the Integrated Renewable Energy Experiment (IRENE) test-bed is presented. IRENE is a laboratory-scale distributed energy system with a modular structure which can be readily re-configured to test newly developed components for generic regenerative systems. Key aspects include renewable energy conversion, electrolysis, hydrogen and electricity storage, and fuel cells. A special design feature of this test bed is the ability to accept dynamic inputs from and provide dynamic loads to real devices as well as from simulated energy sources/sinks. The integration issues encountered while developing IRENE and innovative solutions devised to overcome these barriers are discussed. Renewable energy systems that employ a regenerative approach to enable intermittent energy sources to service time varying loads rely on the efficient transfer of energy through the storage media. Experiments were conducted to evaluate the performance of the hydrogen energy buffer under a range of dynamic operating conditions. Results indicate that the operating characteristics of the electrolyser under transient conditions limit the production of hydrogen from excess renewable input power. These characteristics must be considered when designing or modeling a renewable-regenerative system. Strategies to mitigate performance degradation due to interruptions in the renewable power supply are discussed. Experiments were conducted to determine the response of the IRENE system to operating conditions that are representative of a residential scale, solar based, renewable-regenerative system. A control algorithm, employing bus voltage constraints and device current limitations, was developed to guide system operation. Results for a two week operating period that indicate that the system response is very dynamic but repeatable are presented. The overall system energy balance reveals that the energy input from the renewable source was sufficient to meet the demand load and generate a net surplus of hydrogen. The energy loss associated with the various system components as well as a breakdown of the unused renewable energy input is presented. In general, the research indicates that the technical challenges associated with hydrogen energy buffing can be overcome, but the round trip efficiency for the current technologies is low at only 22 percent.



Hydrogen, Fuel Cell, Renewable Energy, Electrolysers