Operation of the world’s largest solar powered hydrogen plant began on 20 April 2021 in China.
The project, owned by Baofeng Energy Group, uses a 200-MW solar power plant located in northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region to electrolyze water to make “green” hydrogen, which replaces coal.
In May 2020 Chinese coal miner Baofeng Energy announced that it had commenced construction of what will be the world’s largest solar-powered hydrogen plant.
Built in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region of northwest China, the new RMB1.4 billion ($A309 million) solar-powered electrolysis project is designed to produce 160 million cubic metres of hydrogen each year, plus another 80 million cubic metres of oxygen. Reports by Xinhua News said the company expects the facility to save 250,000 tonnes of coal consumption each year, with a 445,000 tonne reduction in CO2 emissions.
The new project will use two 10,000m3/hr electrolysers powered by two 100MW solar power plants, plus a 1,000kg/day hydro-generation station, while two petrol stations will be converted to supply natural gas and hydrogen for transport purposes. Additionally, the solar panels will be installed over wolfberry and alfalfa crops which will generate additional revenue from the project.
The Baofeng Energy Group is traditionally a coal mining and chemical production company but has said that the new solar-powered hydrogen plant is a demonstration of how China can move away from fossil fuel-based energy.
The production of hydrogen is already seen as an important step away from fossil fuel-based sources – especially for applications in the heating and transport sectors. Hydrogen production uses a process called electrolysis, which uses electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
Given the dramatic fall in the cost of producing renewable energy and, in many cases, a surplus of useable energy sources such as wind and solar, it makes sound economic and environmental sense to use the electrolysis process to make “green” hydrogen”.
Hydrogen can also be made from ammonia. It is most commonly made from methane, water and air, using steam methane reforming (SMR) and the Haber process.
However, making ammonia is this way is currently not a “green” process, as it consumes a lot of energy and still produces carbon dioxide — currently around 1.8% of global carbon dioxide emissions.
A key benefit of hydrogen as a fuel is that it does not produce any greenhouse gases went burnt, only water vapour. It can be stored and transported as needed.
Article originally published by China Environment News Facebook Group, 26 April 2021.