Sustainable Cities™

Vestenskov: The world’s first hydrogen community

Electricity generated by wind turbines is a widely used source of sustainable energy, but as yet it is not possible to store surplus electricity for later use. The Danish consortium Dansk Mikrovarme is halfway through a 6-year project in Vestenskov, a village on the south eastern Danish island of Lolland, where they are testing the potential of storing wind energy by converting it to hydrogen. Using a fuel cell, the stored hydrogen can supply homes with electricity as well as heat when the need arises. The objective is to put Lolland on the map as a European role model for the implementation of large-scale hydrogen technology.

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Illustration af brintsamfund, illustration venligst udlånt af Bass Baltic Sea Solutions

Today, Lolland produces 50% more wind energy than it consumes. Since pure wind energy cannot be stored it means that when there is no wind households have to burn fossil fuels. By using wind energy to make hydrogen which can later be used in micro combined heat and power (micro CHP) installations, it will be possible to use almost 100% of sustainable energy sources for the production of heat and electricity.

The project has been divided into three phases. During phase one (2006-2007), Dansk Mikrovarme built a test/demonstration plant. An electrolysis plant was developed to make hydrogen and oxygen, as were fuel cells for the electrochemical production of electricity and heat from the hydrogen, as well as equipment to connect to the village's energy supply grid. The demonstration plant uses centralised production of hydrogen to make electricity and heat which is then used to hit buildings in the area. This phase was officially inaugurated on 17 November 2006.

7,5 fuel cell, courtesy of Bass Baltic Sea Solutions

On 15 September 2008, the first households in the village of Vestenskov were connected to the hydrogen plant. The five selected test homes were equipped with micro-CHP units the size of a refrigerator which produce electricity and heat. Hydrogen is distributed directly to the houses by underground pipes from a large electrolysis plant in a field behind the village's nursing home. Both electricity and heat used in the home will be derived from sustainable energy sources and are as such entirely carbon-neutral. Decentralised micro CHP plants are more efficient and make for greater security of supply. During phase two (2007-2010), tests were carried out on safety and operational stability.

The goal for phase three (2010-2012) is for Dansk Mikrovarme to supply about 35-40 households with hydrogen based on its experiences from the test homes. The homes will get a fuel cell module the size of a small central heating unit with an output of approximately 2 kW. The installation will provide both heat and electricity for the homes.

The installations can be fitted to all houses and are suitable for use throughout the year in homes currently heated by natural gas or oil. It is expected that all the houses in Vestenskov will be connected to the hydrogen system in 2012. In addition to supplying sustainable energy, the expectation is that Hydrogen Community Lolland will have a spin-off effect on commercial development in general. Basic and in-service training will be included as natural elements in the planning of the project.

Hydrogen

Hydrogen is a chemical element not found in free form. In order to release energy, hydrogen has to be subjected to electrolysis. Electrolysis separates the hydrogen from the oil, water or gas to which it is bound. Separation requires the application of an electrical charge. This can be in the form of solar or wind energy. When the hydrogen has been separated it can be used in a fuel cell in which the hydrogen is used in a chemical process that releases energy. The chemical process occurs when the hydrogen comes into contact with oxygen from the air, which releases steam as the exhaust from the hydrogen fuel cell. This combustion produces an electric charge which can be used for power and heat. The advantage of this process is that it does not develop CO2 and the only waste product is pure water. 

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014

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