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The Role of Hydrogen in the Optimal Design of Off-grid Hybrid Renewable Energy Systems


The optimal design of off-grid hybrid renewable energy systems (HRESs) is a challenging task, which often involves conflicting goals to be faced. In this work, levelized cost of energy (LCOE) and CO2 emissions have been addressed simultaneously by using the ε-constraint method together with the particle swarm optimization (PSO) algorithm. Cost-emissions Pareto fronts of different HRES configurations were developed to gain greater awareness about the potential of renewable-based energy systems in off-grid applications. Various combinations of the following components were investigated: photovoltaic panels, wind turbines, batteries, hydrogen and diesel generators. The hydrogen-based system comprises an electrolyzer to convert the excess renewable energy into hydrogen, a pressurized tank for H2 storage and a fuel cell for the reconversion of hydrogen into electricity during renewable energy deficits. Electrolyzer and fuel cell devices were modelled by means of part-load performance curves. Size-dependent costs and component lifetimes as a function of the cumulative operational duty were also considered for a more accurate techno-economic assessment. The proposed methodology was applied to the Froan islands (Norway), which were chosen as a reference case study since they are well representative of many other insular microgrid environments in Northern Europe. Results from the sizing simulations revealed that energy storage devices are key components to reduce the dependency on fossil fuels. In particular, the hydrogen storage system is crucial in off-grid areas to enhance the RES penetration and avoid a sharp increase in the cost of energy. Hydrogen, in fact, allows the battery and RES technologies not to be oversized, thanks to its cost-effective long-term storage capability. Concerning the extreme case with no diesel, the cheapest configuration, which includes both batteries and hydrogen, has an LCOE of 0.41 €/kWh. This value is around 35% lower than the LCOE of a system with only batteries as energy storage.

Funding source: This project has received funding from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No 779541. This Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, Hydrogen Europe and Hydrogen Europe research.
Related subjects: Applications & Pathways
Countries: Italy

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