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Renewable Fuels-to-Grid Integration

NREL is researching how hydrogen and other renewable fuels offer new ways to integrate our energy systems.

Photo of a hydrogen electrolyzer in a laboratory

Renewable fuels can serve as potential storage mediums for electric power that can either be used to fuel vehicles or converted back into electricity. Electrolyzer technologies also offer ancillary grid services to utilities.


  • The Hydrogen Infrastructure Testing and Research Facility at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) combines an electrolyzer, a hydrogen fueling station, fuel cell vehicles, and a stationary fuel cell, and it serves as a proving ground for hydrogen component, system, and control testing.
  • The National Fuel Cell Technology Evaluation Center provides secure management, storage, and processing of proprietary fuel cell data from industry.
  • Future plans for the ESIF include the installation of a biodigester to convert organic materials into methane, which can then be purified and compressed to form a renewable version of natural gas.
  • NREL's Wind-to-Hydrogen project uses wind and solar power to electrolyze water, freeing hydrogen, which is stored. The hydrogen can be used at the site's hydrogen fueling station or converted to electricity using either a fuel cell or a generator driven by a hydrogen internal combustion engine.

Hydrogen Electrolyzers

NREL examines how electrolyzers, hydrogen storage, fuel cells, and other hydrogen technologies can be integrated into today's energy systems. Electrolyzers break down water, from which hydrogen can be recovered, compressed, and storedoffering opportunities to provide ancillary services to the electric grid. Electrolyzers can be as large as megawatt scale, and they can ramp up to full power in about a second, allowing them to help the grid recover from incidences in which the amount of power generation on the grid exceeds the load.

NREL is among the first to characterize the responsiveness of electrolyzers and is now performing analyses to determine how best electrolyzers can be integrated onto the grid to provide not only energy storage but also ancillary services such as frequency control. In a project with Idaho National Laboratory, the two labs have connected their grid simulators using real-time digital simulators. Read more about the project.

NREL is also examining five alternative approaches for the renewable generation of hydrogen, other than electrolysis. Read more about this research.


Photo of a polymer electrolyte membrane stack in a laboratory


NREL helped evaluate a large-scale polymer electrolyte membrane stack designed to maximize renewable energy on the grid by converting it to hydrogen when supply exceeds demand.

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NREL's research includes converting hydrogen from an electrolyzer into methane, which can be purified and compressed to serve as biogas. It's a different alternative fuel or the renewable version of natural gas.


Photo of a man working with a hydrogen electrolyzer

Southern California Gas

NREL has joined demonstration projects to create and test a carbon-free, power-to-gas system for the first time ever in the United States.

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Kevin Harrison

Senior Engineer | 303-815-3721

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