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NREL - National Renewable Energy Laboratory
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Systems Engineering, Modeling, and Analysis

NREL uses systems engineering, simulation models, and analysis to develop renewable hydrogen systems. When fully developed and verified against experimental data, simulations models are valuable to understand operational characteristics of renewable hydrogen systems.

Modeling can be used to size the components of a generating system to meet a particular load and to explore the costs and benefits of the system before the system is built. In addition, models of different components of wind/electrolysis/fuel cell power–generating systems aid in control-system design.

Detailed systems modeling and simulation under realistic operating conditions enable comparison of life-cycle cost for system configurations. Maintenance and replacement of components contribute significantly to the life-cycle cost of systems. The electrical, chemical, mechanical, and economic performance of the system can be analyzed by creating a software model of the system. These aspects, which relate to the selected control strategy, must be considered at the system design stage.

Learn more about renewable electrolysis.

System Control Strategies

The system controller has to respond to changing and dynamic operating conditions caused by fluctuating power supplied by renewable resources and varying load demands of the electrolyzer.

Advanced system control strategies focus on:

  • Running multiple electrolyzer stacks in an efficient manner based on available renewable electricity
  • Maximizing the utilization of the renewable resources
  • Ensuring high reliability of the system
  • Reducing or eliminating the need for redundant power conversions and integrated electricity storage in the system.

Research Focus

NREL is developing concept platforms and developing and validating component and system models, system assessment, and optimization tools for a variety of renewable hydrogen system scenarios. Some of the tools that NREL uses for the analysis of these systems include H2A and HOMER.

In 2011, NREL performed an extensive analysis of the cost of producing hydrogen via wind-based water electrolysis at potential sites across the nation. The results of this analysis are provided in the hydrogen production cost analysis interactive tool.

Renewable resources can be used to supply hydrogen and electricity for several end-use applications.  This graphic displays various configurations.  A corn stalk and biomass pyrolysis graphic is connected via hydrogen piping to a hydrogen storage tank.  The tank is connected via hydrogen piping to a hydrogen fuel pump at a local fueling station.  The fuel pump is connected via hydrogen piping to a hydrogen-fueled vehicle. Another scenario depicts a wind turbine that is connected via an electric line to an electrolyzer that is connected via hydrogen piping to a hydrogen storage tank.  The tank is connected via hydrogen piping to a hydrogen fuel pump at a local fueling station.  The fuel pump is connected via hydrogen piping to a hydrogen-fueled vehicle.  The hydrogen storage tank is also connected via hydrogen piping to a fuel cell and engine, which is connected via an electric line to the electric grid.  Other renewables (solar, geothermal, and hydro) are connected via an electric line to short-term energy storage tanks or the electric grid.  The electric grid is connected via an electric line to a fueling station electrolyzer that is connected via hydrogen piping to a hydrogen fuel pump.

Renewable resources can be used to produce hydrogen and electricity for a variety of end-use applications.