New Research Collaboration To Advance Megawatt-Scale Hydrogen Fuel Cell Systems

Cooperative Research Project With Toyota Will Study the Scaling and Integration of Fuel Cell Systems for Stationary Power Generation

Aug. 24, 2022 | Contact media relations

3D layout of the Flatirons Campus hydrogen system
The fuel cell power generation subsystem is highlighted in blue in this 3D layout of the Flatirons Campus hydrogen system. The full system will be commissioned later in 2022. Image by Jeff Mohr, NREL

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will soon have a new research capability to demonstrate large-scale power production using hydrogen fuel cells in an integrated energy system.

NREL is collaborating with Toyota Motor North America (Toyota) through a cooperative research and development agreement to build, install, and evaluate a 1-megawatt (MW) proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell power generation system at NREL’s Flatirons Campus.

This three-year, $6.5 million project is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and supports DOE’s H2@Scale vision for clean hydrogen use across multiple applications and economic sectors.

“We will study the scaling of PEM fuel cell systems for stationary power generation to understand what the performance, durability, and system integration challenges are,” said Daniel Leighton, an NREL research engineer and principal investigator on the project. “This fuel cell generator system also creates a new megawatt-scale fuel cell research capability at NREL.”

Advancing Megawatt-Scale Fuel Cell Research

The 1-MW fuel cell system integrates multiple Toyota fuel cell modules into a larger system to provide responsive stationary power. The system demonstrates a simplified design as a drop-in replacement to a conventional generator, and Toyota has developed an integrated control system to manage operation of the fuel cell modules to maximize efficiency and system life.

Through a previous collaboration, NREL has demonstrated the use of an automotive fuel cell system to provide carbon-free power for a data center. This new system is at a significantly larger scale, generating about 15 times more power, and is capable of direct current and alternating current output.

Toyota is providing the fuel cell modules and is working with systems integrator Telios for design, balance of plant integration, and build of the system for delivery to NREL.

NREL researchers will push the operational boundaries of the fuel cell system design to identify performance limitations and degradation over time, generating valuable real-world data to aid with development of future applications. Research and development will also include assessing how the system performs when integrated with energy storage and renewable energy systems, such as solar and wind.

“Achieving carbon neutrality requires all of us to explore new applications of zero-emission technology, including how that technology will integrate with other systems, which the project with NREL will identify,” said Christopher Yang, group vice president of Business Development, Fuel Cell Solutions, at Toyota. “The application of our modules in deployments of this magnitude shows the scalability of Toyota’s fuel cell technology, whether it is a single fuel cell module for one passenger vehicle or multiple systems combined to power heavy-duty equipment.”

Demonstrating Integrated Hydrogen Systems at Scale

Infographic representation of NREL’s ARIES hydrogen system: 1.25 MW PEM electrolysis, 3,000 psi hydrogen compression, 600 kg hydrogen ground storage, 1 MW PEM fuel cell, and AC/DC inputs and outputs with an integrated grid.
Key components of the ARIES hydrogen system include a 1.25-MW PEM electrolyzer for hydrogen production, hydrogen compression to 3,000 psi, 600 kg of hydrogen storage, and a 1-MW PEM fuel cell for power generation. Image by NREL

The fuel cell generator is part of the Advanced Research on Integrated Energy Systems (ARIES) megawatt-scale hydrogen system being designed and commissioned at NREL’s Flatirons Campus. The flexible system—which includes a 1.25-MW PEM electrolyzer, 600-kg hydrogen storage system, and 1-MW fuel cell generator—provides a platform to demonstrate direct renewable hydrogen production, energy storage, power production, and grid integration at the megawatt scale.

“Proving technologies and addressing integration challenges at scale is critical to deploy nationwide clean energy infrastructure,” Leighton said. “The ARIES hydrogen system will support projects to integrate clean hydrogen technologies into future energy systems and be available to demonstrate innovative hydrogen end uses, such as heavy-duty transportation, power generation, and industrial decarbonization.”

The fuel cell generator system will be installed this summer, and the full system will be commissioned later in 2022.

Learn more about NREL’s hydrogen and fuel cell research.

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