National Grid has completed a ten-week trial test of a hydrogen-powered generator at a 400kV modified substation.
A GeoPura 250kW hydrogen power unit was contained within a transportable shipping container to then be tested at the Deeside Centre for Innovation (DCI). This unit was trialled as a means to produce low-carbon energy for low-voltage equipment at National Grid’s innovation testing projects and on-site operations.
The trial tested the capabilities and feasibility of the hydrogen generator as a direct replacement for diesel powered backup generators across more than 250 National Grid substation sites. The data from the trial is set to be analysed and released later this year.
“The hydrogen power unit has been tested for different load profiles including typical critical substation equipment. The trial results for electrical performance and environmental aspects along with hydrogen management at our substations will now be examined as viable zero emission alternatives to diesel backup generators,” said Prem Ranjan, test engineer at Deeside Centre for Innovation.
The test results could provide a boost to the hydrogen sector and further support its upward trajectory in providing an additional stream of low-carbon power to various appliances. This could further cement hydrogen within the UK’s net zero future.
National Grid currently utilises diesel generators alongside batteries to provide backup power for a substation’s key activities. This includes providing power for cooling fans, pumps and lighting.
The hydrogen generator at Deeside had power capabilities of up to 100kW in continuous operation mode and up to 250kW for 45 minutes. It used 100% green hydrogen – the cleanest variant – for the trial and boasts several benefits such as being quieter.
“We are delighted to have trialled this innovative off-grid power source at National Grid’s Deeside Centre for Innovation,” said Sean Coleman, manager for Deeside Centre for Innovation.
“The hydrogen power unit powered our test facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week and we will now consider the findings, which we hope will help accelerate the transition to a flexible and low carbon future.”
Companies around the globe have been pouring capital into green hydrogen innovation and producing technologies that are able to provide that last percentage required for full decarbonisation.
But the UK government has been cautious in its approach to hydrogen. Despite major backing, its initial Hydrogen Strategy set a goal of just 5GW of low-carbon hydrogen production by 2030 – significantly lower than countries such as the US, Germany and Australia. A negative response from industry prompted this figure to be increased to 10GW, with 5GW to come from green hydrogen.
With the hydrogen market very much still in its infancy, there have been increasing desires to secure offtakers for the clean energy carrier. Should the results from this National Grid trial post positive implications, it could provide one further step in securing demand for green hydrogen in the UK.
Backup generators in particular are dominated by diesel and fossil fuels. Should further tests showcase the promise of hydrogen in the decarbonisation of backup power generation, it provides an extra decarbonisation avenue to explore.
“Backup power plays a critical role in the UK’s electricity transmission system, and this is a fantastic example of how hydrogen can be used to eliminate harmful environmental emissions in the event of a primary power loss,” said Andrew Cunningham, managing director at GeoPura.
“We are thrilled to have supported National Grid to undertake this comprehensive testing programme, providing a reliable, critically backed, zero-emission alternative to high polluting diesel generators.”