Germany’s Fraunhofer ISE demonstrates the benefits of a solar-powered hydrogen fuel station

Germany’s Fraunhofer ISE demonstrates the benefits of a solar-powered hydrogen fuel station

March 24, 2012 0 By John Max

Hydrogen Refueling Station Freiburg Germany

Fraunhofer ISE, an alternative energy company specializing in solar and hydrogen power, has launched the first demonstration of its new hydrogen fueling station in Germany. Germany is becoming a hub for hydrogen fuel infrastructure, boasting of enough fueling stations to rival California in the U.S. The Fraunhofer station is much different from its counterparts, however, as it utilizes solar energy to power its system of hydrogen fuel cells. The demonstration is aimed at promoting hydrogen fuel as an alternative to petroleum and show the prowess of hybrid energy systems.

The station is now open to the public, offering to serve anyone with a hydrogen-powered vehicle. Fraunhofer has installed massive solar panels at the station in order to make it completely independent from the German energy grid. The electricity generated by these solar panels is used to send electric currents through water, which is then passed into fuel cells. When this charged water meets with a fuel cell’s catalyst, the hydrogen molecules within the water are extracted. The fuel cell can use this hydrogen to produce more electricity or, in the case of a fuel station, pressurize the hydrogen gas for use in vehicles.

Fraunhofer believes that this hybrid energy system is an answer to some of the problems in using fuel cells. Many conventional fuel cells are not entirely energy efficient, as they draw upon significant amounts of electricity that is usually generated by burning fossil-fuels. The coupling of solar and hydrogen power makes a standalone energy system that can continue operating without delay for long periods of time.