A botanical garden in Thailand is trying to give a boost to the hydrogen microgrid concept, an approach that is still nascent.
The 600-acre Nongooch Tropical Botanical Gardens in Pattaya set up a demontration microgrid in early October to show that hydrogen can act as an energy storage solution for local grids, one that doesn’t require fossil fuels, according to Kampon Tansacha, the scientific research center’s owner.
Nongooch partnered on the project with Enapter, a manufacturer of modular hydrogen systems using AEM electrolysis, with offices in Thailand, Germany and Italy.
Nongooch’s hydrogen microgrid isn’t the first Enapter has installed. In collaboration with Electricite de France and hydrogen power systems specialists Powidian, Enapter deployed an off-grid microgrid that has been operating since 2017 at the Cirque de Mafate caldera on Reunion Island, a French overseas territory in the southern Indian Ocean. Dubbed SAGES (Smart Autonomous Green Energy System), it provides 10-days of energy storage capacity, does not use any fossil fuels and provides electricity to several houses, a school, a workshop and medical dispensary, said Enapter co-founder Vaitea Cowan.
Enapter also deployed a hydrogen microgrid for Phi Suea House in Thailand, a system that has been running since 2014. The system provides 35 hours of energy storage, Cowan said.
In addition, the company is working with the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand to develop a fully functional microgrid that will double as an educational vehicle to illustrate a pathway to sustainable energy. The microgrid will include software capable of managing and optimizing loads and overall system performance.
Hydrogen microgrid tech at early stage
All told, microgrids based on Enapter’s hydrogen electrolyzers have been installed in 29 countries for a variety of use cases. Those use cases include achieving energy independence in remote areas, solar-hydrogen residential storage, back-up power for telecommunication towers during grid outages, and integration in hydrogen-intensive industries, Cowan said.
Enapter isn’t in the business of developing microgrids per se, Cowan pointed out. “We, however, understand that green hydrogen microgrids are at a very early stage, and a growing number of integrators and microgrid planners are looking for alternatives to diesel generators. They are eager to learn about the potential of hydrogen for scalable and clean, long-term energy storage. That is why we arranged this demo and invited international participants. We hope to enable our partners and customers to develop their own microgrids,” she said in an interview with Microgrid Knowledge.
The roots of Enapter’s hydrogen electrolyzer and microgrid system stretch back to an off-grid home microgrid co-founders Sebastian-Justus Schmidt and his eldest son, Jan-Justus, installed to minimize the carbon footprint of the family’s home in Thailand. The hydrogen electrolyzer at its core was developed by Acta Spa, an Italian company that ran into financial troubles. Schmidt believed the technology could be improved and made economically feasible. The Schmidt family then took over Acta Spa in a share deal in October 2017.
Shortly thereafter, the Schmidts joined with Cowan, a communications specialist, to showcase, raise capital and market the off-grid hydrogen system. That led to their founding Enapter in November 2017. Since then, the company’s employee headcount has grown from 11 to 76. The company operates: Bangkok, Berlin, Pisa and St. Petersburg, according to Cowan. More recently, Enapter completed a Series A venture capital round of funding in which private investors contributed capital for Enapter for the first time. It plans to carry out a Series B round soon Cowan added.
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