Hydrogen fuel cell powers off-grid site in construction ‘first’
A zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell capable of providing enough heat and power for an entire off-grid construction site, removing the need for diesel generators, has been installed on a project in Lincolnshire.
Siemens Energy, lead contractor for the construction of National Grid’s Viking Link interconnector project, installed the fuel cell system with partner GeoPura because the site won’t have a grid connection for at least six to eight months.
The hydrogen fuelled critical power system was installed in August and will provide 250kVA of standard three phase, 400V of electrical power and up to 80kW of heating to around 20 cabins across the construction village.
The cabins, which contain welfare areas, offices and meeting space, will be used by Siemens Energy employees and contractors, as work to build the access road continues, and as main works start on the converter station later this year.
The fuel cell system, piloted by Siemens at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2019, has been further developed by Siemens Energy’s partner, GeoPura, and now uses the waste heat, which is normally lost from the fuel cell’s cooling system. This waste heat is passed through a heat exchanger to heat water, which is then piped through to heat two drying rooms for the site workers’ personal protective equipment (PPE).
The fuel cell system incorporates 216kWh of battery storage, used to smooth the peaks in power demand and improve the efficiency of the system.
The battery storage also means that should the hydrogen supply be interrupted, the output of the system will be unaffected and can supply power autonomously for several hours.
In addition to powering the cabins and drying room, power will also be provided to six electric vehicle charging points on site.
Initially the hydrogen supplied for the fuel cell system will come from conventional hydrogen sources, but will move to “green hydrogen”, once a suitable supply has been confirmed. Green hydrogen will save a tonne of CO2 each week, which is the equivalent of taking 20 cars off the road, Siemens claimed.
The fuel cell system is based on a single 6m shipping container which houses all the equipment needed to convert the hydrogen into electricity and heat. Around 300 metres of reusable piping has been installed at the site to distribute hot water from the fuel cell to the cabins and drying rooms.
Steve Scrimshaw, vice president, Siemens Energy UK&I, said: “This is a great project and I’m delighted that we as Siemens Energy, with our partner GeoPura, have been able to walk the talk on how to build the hydrogen economy. In order to get the hydrogen economy moving we need to create a market, and it is small projects, such as this, which will increase the demand for green hydrogen, providing a pipeline of work for the supply chain.
“We have 30 years to reach net zero and at that point, we won’t be able to use things like diesel to power a generator. This is truly the future for off grid power – and this project should be a model for others across the country.”