Abengoa has taken a step forward by developing this pilot fuel cell power plant, based on the use of fuel cells developed in the Grasshopper project, in which the company is participating. The plant is currently located in the Seville Free Trade Zone and will soon be transferred to its final destination in the Netherlands.
The main innovative feature of this plant is that it is the first on the market capable of operating in a dynamic, flexible and versatile way. Moreover, it achieves significant reductions in cost and can maintain performance throughout the entire operating range.
The plant has two-way communication with the electricity market, enabling it to offer capacity and receive requests through a platform designed for smart grids. Its rapid-response capacity enables the plant to participate in the electricity reserve and balancing markets.
The Grasshopper project “GRid ASsiSnting modular HydrOgen Pem PowER plant” is, as the name suggests, a fuel cell power plant based on PEM hydrogen cells to help achieve power balancing of electrical grids.
This new generation of fuel cell power plants is based on PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) hydrogen fuel cells. These plants have dynamic operating capabilities, enabling them to adapt to electrical grid needs with a high response capacity. They are 100% manageable facilities.
The resulting added value will give these plants a competitive position in reserve markets, once the pilot plant has been developed on a commercial level. A larger-scale solution is already in the works, meaning that it will be in a position to enter the market almost immediately.
Another great benefit of this plant is its modular design, which makes it relatively easy to transport. In addition, the plants plug and play connection capability means that it can be put into operation very rapidly. Grasshopper, therefore, provides a solution for the energy requirements of remote or off-grid locations, such as camps or islands. It can also be implemented as an emergency generator for buildings, such as hospitals.
Moreover, because the plant generates energy in the form of both electricity and heat, it can be used in industrial processes requiring low temperatures, or to supply heating in residential areas (CHP).
Once commissioning has been completed, the pilot plant will be prepared for transfer to its final destination, a chemical park in Delfzijl (The Netherlands). There it will operate for five years to demonstrate its durability and economic feasibility. The plant will be fueled by surplus hydrogen produced in a chlor-alkali chemical plant.
Participation and financing
In addition to Abengoa, other companies and institutions participating in the project consortium include: INEA -Informatizacija Energetika Avtomatizacija; Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells Limited (JMFC); Nedstack Fuel Cell Technology B.V.; Politécnico di Milano (Polimi); and Zentrum für Brennstoffzellen Technik Gmbh (ZBT).
Grasshopper seeks to contribute to the European Green Deal target of eliminating net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Moreover, hydrogen could potentially account for up to 20% of the energy mix.
Hydrogen, therefore, has a key role to play in the process of decarbonising the energy sector. It is also one of the best sources of energy in terms of energy storage in the medium and long term. All this underlines its potential to contribute to the development of a circular economy and a zero-emissions society.
Completion of the commissioning of the Grasshopper project pilot plant represents a key milestone for Abengoa. It will open the door to new developments in this field, while consolidating the company’s leading international position in this sector.
Grasshopper is funded by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No. 779430. It receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 framework program for research and innovation, as well as from the Hydrogen Europe and Hydrogen Europe Research associations.