Paper presented to the 3rd Southern African Solar Energy Conference, South Africa, 11-13 May, 2015.
Hydrogen is expected to be a key role player in the future energy market for stationary, mobile and electrical grid balancing applications if produced from renewable energy sources. Hydrogen energy technologies include direct power from fuel cell, storage for intermittent renewable energy, and power-to-gas (P2G) applications. In the last year P2G has been identified as having a large potential with several possibilities in itself: (1) Hydrogen is produced from excess renewable energy and injected directly into natural gas networks. (2) Hydrogen along with a CO2 emitting source employing the Sabatier process produces synthetic natural gas (SNG). (3) Hydrogen in a bioreactor employing a biocatalyst increases the biogas energy content by reducing CO2 content. At HySA Infrastructure research focus is on hydrogen production from renewable energy as the central technology for the enhancement of the different hydrogen energy prospects. This paper will focus on presenting results from the recently upgraded solar-to-hydrogen system at the HySA Infrastructure center at North-West University. The previous small-scale solar-to-hydrogen system is upgraded to South Africa’s first commercial scale renewable hydrogen production plant. The main purpose of the upgrade is to increase the hydrogen production capacity and improve system performance. System performance includes the increase of overall system efficiency and to reduce the cost of hydrogen. The paper includes prospects of renewable hydrogen in South Africa, and how solar-to-hydrogen research falls into the bigger picture of hydrogen in South Africa.