India becomes latest to test green hydrogen microgrids

Dec. 16, 2021
The green hydrogen microgrid — powered with a form of hydrogen produced using renewable energy —  is still a nascent technology, but pilot tests are emerging with the most recent being undertaken by India’s largest electric utility, NTPC.

The green hydrogen microgrid — powered with a form of hydrogen produced using renewable energy — is still a nascent technology, but pilot tests are emerging with the most recent being undertaken by NTPC, the largest utility in India.

NTPC plans to construct the nation’s first stand-alone fuel cell microgrid that uses green hydrogen at its guest house in Simhadri, a village near Visakhapatnam in southern India.

The pilot project was announced Dec. 15 by India’s Ministry of Power.

The government sees the pilot as a test case for future hydrogen energy storage projects with the intent of eventually deploying multiple microgrids in various off-grid and strategic locations throughout India.

Designed in-house by NTPC, the microgrid will employ a floating solar project and advanced 240-kW solid oxide electrolyser. The hydrogen will be produced from energy generated by the solar panels, stored at high pressure and used with a 50-kW solid oxide fuel cell. The microgrid will operate independently from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m.

India’s government sees the microgrid opening doors for decarbonizing the remote regions now dependent on diesel generators.

The project also supports the government’s plan of becoming carbon neutral by 2070. 

India’s announcement comes as the microgrid industry increasingly looks to hydrogen as a fuel that holds future promise.

Prices dropping for green hydrogen microgrids

“Hydrogen can play a major role in microgrids. Green hydrogen can be generated by excess renewable energy and utilized in fuel cells or blended with natural gas for use in internal combustion engines. The resiliency and dispatchability of hydrogen technologies provide many benefits to microgrids with lower carbon emissions,” wrote Jaimie Hamilton-Antonson, technical leader for the energy management business segment within Cummins Power Generation, in her paper, “Transforming Microgrids with Hydrogen.” 

The price of green hydrogen is expected to drop drastically in the coming decades, reaching $7.4/MMBTU by 2050, making it less costly than other forms of hydrogen, according to the paper.

Hydrogen microgrids elsewhere

In Sweden, the city of Vårgårda and Nilsson Energy built a microgrid that uses solar panels, batteries, heat pumps, hydrogen production and storage, and hydrogen fuel cells to provide energy to six public housing buildings.

INNIO, an Austria-based energy solutions provider, has teamed up with HansWerk AG, a German energy service provider, to deliver a 1-MW hydrogen fueled combined heat and power (CHP) pilot plant in the center of Hamburg, Germany. The pilot will demonstrate readiness for a green gas grid by running the grid-connected gas fired CHP plant with increasing levels of hydrogen, up to 100%, to test its flexibility.

Western Australia’s Labor Party has announced plans to both build and install 1,000 stand-alone power systems – or SAPS – including solar, battery storage and hydrogen electrolysers across its grid over the coming five years, as part of a $259 million policy package to boost green manufacturing in the state.

In the United States, the well-known Stone Edge Farm Microgrid in California’s wine country offers an example of a microgrid that uses green hydrogen.

A group of energy and industrial companies formed a coalition earlier this year to press for more hydrogen. Called Hydrogen Forward, its founding members include Air Liquide, Anglo American, Bloom Energy, CF Industries, Chart Industries, Cummins, Hyundai, Linde, McDermott, Shell and Toyota.

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About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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