Use of Hydrogen as a Power Source: 5 Projects You Cannot Miss


Use of hydrogen, particularly Green Hydrogen, has been intensely invoked as one of the most promising propellers for the Energy Transition [1]. The range of possible applications and uses of hydrogen extends from small-scale vehicle fueling solutions to larger adoption scenarios as a flexibility mechanism.

If you are fascinated by this topic, we encourage you to take a look at our recent challenges where we addressed some innovative projects for renewable energy production and energy storage.

Hydrogen and its potential will be increasingly important in the energy transition, phasing out some fossil fuels, in particular natural gas.

The difficulty of hydrogen take-off in the past is due to the high cost involved. Water electrolysis required more energy than that stored in the end product and this made it economically unfeasible. There are different electrolysis technologies: Alkaline, PEMWE and SOEC, each with its advantages and disadvantages, although with significant loss.

We only had to reduce the cost of hydrogen generation to make it really competitive and scalable.

As of today, the electricity price still represents around 75% of the cost of green hydrogen (H2) generated by electrolysers [1]. Total cost depends on factors such as electrolyser efficiency, WACC (cost of capital) or full load hours, among others.

Renewable energies stand as a game changer since they are considered a virtually unlimited resource, being able to support Hydrogen production plants anywhere.

Although transporting hydrogen is a problem because of its low density, there is a chance of blending and use natural gas pipelines. Consequently, dedicating a portion of the natural gas network to pure hydrogen could be a solution in the future, although it would serve industries and homes, not vehicles.

Figure 1. Reducing the costs of electrolysers and electricity, together with increased efficiency and lifespan, could lead to an 80% reduction in the cost of hydrogen in the future [2]

The current levelized cost of energy (LCOE) has been stated at $26-54/MWh for wind and $29-42/MWh for solar power. The cheapest solar production is currently found in Portugal with a LCOE of $13/MWh.

Here are a few very relevant projects to improve hydrogen generation and usage that you should not miss.

Hydrogen Generation Projects

1. Optimize the cost of electrolysers to generate hydrogen.

Although some analyses show that H2 can already be produced near the target of USD 2 per kilo [3], it is expected that this price will decrease continuously.

Norwegian electrolyser manufacturer Nel has unveiled plans to cut the cost of its electrolysers by about 75% (in a new 2GW factory) and to reduce the price of green hydrogen to $1.50 per kg by 2025. This is roughly the same cost as gray H2 derived from fossil fuels [4].

Figure 2 - Nel’s 2 GW electrolysis factory 

The price prediction was based on renewable electricity at $20/MWh, including lifetime costs over 20 years: the cost of land, civil works, installation, commissioning and operations and maintenance.

With the completion of its first 500MW production line at its new fully automated alkaline-electrolyser factory in Herøya, Norway, the company expects to reduce the production cost by 50% and to trigger future cost reductions.   

2. Hydrogen generation from paper waste.

In Lancaster, California, a new project was launched, supported by ground-breaking technology. It is a hydrogen production plant that uses recycled mixed paper waste and has been built by the energy company SGH2.

This technology reduces carbon emissions two to three times, and is also five to seven times less expensive than electrolysis and the production of renewable energy.

Figure 3. Hydrogen cost comparison. Source: SG H2 Energy

The company estimates to produce up to 11,000 kilograms of H2 per day (3.8 million kilograms per year – nearly three times more than any other H2 production facility), processing 42000 tons of recycled waste annually [5].

The gasification process uses a plasma-enhanced thermal catalytic conversion process optimized with oxygen-enriched gas. In the gasification island’s catalyst-bed chamber, plasma torches generate such high temperatures (3500 – 4000 degrees Celsius), that the waste feedstock disintegrates into its molecular compounds, without combustion ash or toxic fly ash. As the gas exits the catalyst-bed chamber, the molecules bind into a very high quality hydrogen-rich biosyngas. This process is rich in very high quality hydrogen and free of:

  • Tar
  • Soot
  • Heavy metals. [16]

3. Hydrogen production through concentrated solar radiation

Germany is trying to become a world leader in hydrogen production in order to reduce its dependence on Russian gas.

The DLR institute (Deutsches Zentrum für Luftund Raumfahrt or German Aerospace Centre) is working on the production of carbon-neutral fuels from solar energy. One of the processes of this research is the production of hydrogen from water using concentrated solar radiation [7].

In this project called Synlight there is a set of 140 short-arc xenon lamps (such as those used for the projection of films in cinemas) that concentrate the radiation on an area of 400 square centimeters. With that battery of lamps and a power of 350 KW DLP scientists achieve an intensity 10,000 higher than solar radiation on the surface of the Earth.

Figure 4 - Lamps in the Synlight building of the DLR [8].

This energy makes it possible to manufacture fuels, including hydrogen, thanks to the resulting 3,000 degrees Celsius.

Use of Hydrogen in Different Projects

4. The use of hydrogen for mobility and transport

The German DLR roadmap aims at the total decarbonisation of the aviation sector until mid-2030. They are working in different initiatives including [9]:

  • The use of fuel cells and hybrid architectures
  • Direct combustion of hydrogen under real flight conditions
  • The hydrogen mixture for use in gas turbines

Figure 5 - DLR road map towards decarbonized aviation [9]

Since 2005 fuel cells have been used for the propulsion of submarines such as the U35 [10]. The use of hydrogen allows submarines to be noiseless and also to produce under-water heat, making them virtually undetectable. In addition, the use of hydrogen prevents contamination of traditional fuels such as diesel.

Hydrogen is also used in automobiles, although it is still in an early stage. The reason is the low energy efficiency of hydrogen processes today:

  • The generation of green hydrogen, by electrolysers.
  • Hydrogen compression for adequate storage within vehicle tanks.
  • The propulsion of vehicles through hydrogen fuel cells.

For this reason electric vehicles are for now the best alternative to the combustion vehicle, especially for short journeys.

The storage of H2 itself represents a major challenge in providing autonomy for small vehicles [11]. Compared to fossil fuel tanks, the weight and volume of the hydrogen storage system is higher.

Hyundai cars with near 580 km of autonomy and a consumption of about 6 Kgs of hydrogen are being tested across different countries such as Germany. There are some 19 hydrogen stations in the country where the tank can be filled in 3-5 minutes at a price of 50-55 euros [10]. These times make it very competitive compared to electric vehicle battery chargers.

Given the level of efficiency with different energy sources, today it is better to use electric cars leaving hydrogen for heavy transport, aircraft and ships.

Figure 6 -Total energy efficiency of the vehicle by energy source (above - electric; centre - H2; below - diesel/petrol) [10].

In addition to energy efficiency challenges, large-scale generation of hydrogen requires the scaling up of renewable energy generation. Today green hydrogen is three times more expensive than grey hydrogen, which is produced from natural gas.

5. Hydrogen for heating systems in cities

The use of hydrogen for heating systems in cities requires changes both in the supply network and in the boilers of homes and buildings.

At present, H2 blended with natural gas [12] is being used in many European cities [13]. Energy companies and manufacturers are proposing to install boilers that accept this mixture in the short term and pure hydrogen as a fuel in the future. The boiler manufacturer BAXI is a very interesting case with mixed hydrogen-gas boilers and also pure hydrogen boiler prototypes of about 30 KW.

However, the proportion of H2 that can be mixed with natural gas in modern networks reaches 15% in the medium term, according to Energy Storage Europe [14].

Figure 7. Hydrogen mixture limits in the natural gas network by volume [15].

However, compared to the consumption of pure natural gas, users of hydrogen-gas mixtures will need more volume to get the same energy. This is because H2 has a much lower energy density than natural gas in volumetric terms. Similarly, with regard to environmental impact, a mixture with 5% hydrogen by volume will not result in a 5% shift in fossil fuel consumption [15].

The use of hydrogen will accelerate the energy transition to decarbonise the economy, especially once an adequate capacity and efficiency for coupled production plants (electricity and H2) is achieved.

Even considering an unexpected discovery of new environmentally friendly energy sources, progress should be made with the addition of H2 to fuel heavy industries that are difficult to decarbonize, including steel, cement industries and heavy transportation.

The possibility of providing low-cost long-term storage for electricity grids is also attractive when considering demand response challenges [16].

Join Ennomotive if you want to learn more about sustainability and clean energy projects. Publish your own articles to show your skills and discuss with other members.


[1] “Assessment of Hydrogen Production Costs from Electrolysis: United States and Europe”; ICCT 2020

[2] “Green Hydrogen Cost Reduction – Scaling up electrolyzers”; Irena 2020

[3] “DOE Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program Record”; DOE 2020

[4] "Nel to slash cost of electrolysers by 75%, with green hydrogen at same price as fossil H2 by 2025"., 2021

[5] “World’s Largest Green Project to Launch in California”; SGH2 Energy

[6] Green Car Congress.

[7] DLR at a glance.

[8] “World’s Biggest Artificial Sun”; DLR.

[9] “DLR’s Demonstrator roadmap towards Zero Emission Aviation”.

[10] “Is green hydrogen the answer to the climate crisis?”; DW Documentary.

[11] Hydrogen Storage Challenges. Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office. 

[12]Hydrogen Blending. Fuel Cell &Hydrogen Energy Association.

[13]Heating of Amsterdam: every source needed 

[14]Could hydrogen piggyback on natural gas infrastructure? 

[15] S&P Global Patts.

[16] “Optimal operation of the hydrogen-based energy management system with P2X demand response and ammonia plant”.