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NREL - National Renewable Energy Laboratory
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Renewable Electrolysis

Renewable electrolysis is a process that uses renewable electricity to produce hydrogen by passing an electrical current through water. Renewable energy sources such as photovoltaics, wind, biomass, hydropower, and geothermal can provide clean, sustainable electricity for our nation—contributing nearly 10% to the U.S. electricity supply.

Photo of wind turbines.

Wind turbines can be used to produce hydrogen through a process called renewable electrolysis.

Barriers and Solutions

Renewable electrolysis is hindered by the difficulty of producing hydrogen from renewable sources in a cost-competitive manner. To realize the potential of renewable electrolysis, the costs of renewable technologies as well as the capital requirements for electrolyzers must be lowered, and renewable electrolysis systems must be optimized.

Factors that limit widespread use of renewable technologies include inherent variability and seasonal energy production. One solution is renewable electrolysis. The hydrogen produced from renewable electrolysis can be used in fuel cells or internal combustion engines to produce electricity during peak demand or low power production. This hydrogen can also be used as transportation fuel.

Research Focus

To understand the basic principles of renewable electrolysis systems, NREL conducts systems engineering, modeling, and analysis. Researchers develop concept platforms, develop and validate component and system models, and design system assessment and optimization tools.

NREL's research examines issues related to using renewable energy to produce hydrogen through electrolysis by:

  • Characterizing electrolyzer performance under variable input power conditions
  • Designing and developing shared power electronics packages and controllers to reduce cost and optimize system performance
  • Identifying opportunities for system cost reductions through breakthroughs in component integration
  • Testing, evaluating, and optimizing the renewable electrolysis system performance for both hydrogen production and electricity/hydrogen cogeneration.

Areas of Expertise

NREL has expertise in:

More Information

Learn about the wind-to-hydrogen (Wind2H2) project, which links wind turbines to electrolyzers that pass the wind-generated electricity through water to split it into hydrogen and oxygen. For more information, check out the related publications and presentations.