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Hydrogen, a way to efficiently store sustainably produced electricity

Lead engineer Jaap Enne Hekma Wierda is working on a compressor for temporary storage of solar energy in hydrogen

In the town of Oosterwolde (Friesland, the Netherlands), an installation is being built that converts sustainably produced electricity into green hydrogen. Grid operator Alliander is realizing this project with a number of partners, including Howden Thomassen Compressors (HTC), which supplies the compressor for compressing and storing the hydrogen produced. Jaap Enne Hekma Wierda works as lead engineer on that compressor. "A project in which proven technology is used in a new green market, that gives me energy."

We are producing more and more sustainable energy in the Netherlands. A challenge here is that solar energy and wind energy are less easy to control than energy from conventional sources. The sun only shines during the day, but there are also cloudy days and in summer there are more hours of sunshine than in winter. To match the production of green energy to the demand, a kind of battery is needed. One way to achieve this is to temporarily convert it to hydrogen.

By converting sustainably generated electricity into green hydrogen, a solution can be offered in the future for opening up large-scale solar parks, wind parks and solar roofs. The hydrogen produced is stored in so-called tube trailers, trucks that transport the hydrogen in barrels for use elsewhere.

Pilot projects

Alliander has started a number of pilot projects to learn what large-scale production of hydrogen from wind and solar energy can mean for affordable and reliable grid management. In Oosterwolde, an electrolyser installation will be installed at a solar park of GroenLeven, developer of large-scale solar energy. This electrolyser converts electricity and water into hydrogen and oxygen. Together with GroenLeven, the grid operator wants to discover how they can control hydrogen production in a weather-dependent energy production. The price of electricity also plays a role. If the electricity price is high, GroenLeven is better able to supply the grid. If the electricity price is low, it is smarter to produce hydrogen.

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In addition to an electrolyser, the compressor is also an important component for the realization of the hydrogen installation. Jaap Enne Hekma Wierda works as lead engineer on the compressor, which was supplied by the HTC company. "The hydrogen is released at about 30 bar. To reduce the storage volume, the hydrogen has to be compressed to 300 bar. Our compressor takes care of that." The compressor is installed in a compact container, including the complete control system and the cooling system. The compressor is now ready, built into a container and delivered in Oosterwolde.

Solving environmental issues

Jaap Enne is lead engineer on this project. This means that he makes the selection of the diaphragm compressor and then makes a detailed design with the team, guides purchasing with evaluating the offers and helps production with questions.

Jaap Enne works for HTC, but he is employed by the high-tech company TMC, for whom he worked on various projects for a variety of clients (see box). "I'm really enjoying my time at HTC, but if I do think about future projects, I'd like to get back into using technology to solve fundamental environmental issues."

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