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Lolland: A Hydrogen-Powered Community

Lolland: A Hydrogen-Powered Community

Edited to remove first sentence…I kept thinking of Holland as I kept writing and seeing Lolland and confused myself. Thanks for the correction guys.

A small Danish island called Lolland, located in the Baltic Sea, is, in fact, a leader in terms of alternative energy sources. They currently produce 50 percent more wind energy than they can consume, and now they are turning to hydrogen.

Hydrogen fuel is used as a store for energy that has already been created. The fuel, when burned, then delivers energy as heat. The flame of hydrogen not only creates heat, but also water when it reacts with the oxygen in the air. 
While hydrogen is generally not found as a single molecule in nature, it can be created via steam reforming, typically from methane. Storage for hydrogen requires four times more space than normal fuel, though it produces practically no pollutants except small traces of nitrogen oxide.

This makes hydrogen fuel ideal for storing energy created by the sun, wind and other means for later use. In fact, liquid hydrogen has been used since the 1970s by NASA to propel space shuttles into orbit. Now, the city of Lolland is using hydrogen to store their excess wind energy in order to become the first hydrogen-powered city.

The Lolland Community Hydrogen, as the project is being called, hopes to establish Lolland as a European leader for hydrogen technology. This micro combined heat and power production (μCHP) will be based on wind energy, electrolysers for hydrogen production and utilization in PEM fuel cells.

Lolland hopes to convert the entire island over to hydrogen via a three stage process, two of which have already begun. The first phase was completed in 2006 after the creation of residential Fuel Cell μCHP in Nakskvov. Excess wind energy powers the electrolyser that separates the hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Both the hydrogen and oxygen are stored in low pressure storage units in order to control:

  1. hydrogen supply to fuel cells
  2. oxygen supply to waste water cleaning plants.

Most of the energy provided by these energy cells are used mainly for the operation of the waster water plant, though some was also alloted to make electricity and heat used to heat buildings in the area, similar to a conventional large-scale infrastructre. Other steps of this phase included de-mystifying hydrogen power to consumers and creating new synergies and symbioses with existing energy and environmental facilities.

Phase 2 of the plan was completed in 2008 in the city of Vestenskov, which not only connected current buildngs to the hydrogen plant, but also involved decentralized placement of fuel cells in five homes. 
Each unit contained a 2 kilowatt fuel cell stack and an AC converter which would replace existing boilers. These cells ended up being more efficient and have higher energy security than conventional boilers. This phase allowed for authorities to test the safety and operational stability of these units.

The final phase of the program will run from 2010-2012 and involve the installation of these cells in 35-40 more households, which will provide both heat and electricity. The conversion of turning hydrogen into energy is made via an electrochemical procedure that has a 50 percent electricity production and combined efficiency of simultaneous use of 90 percent. 
Currently, the homes in Vestenskov are powered by oil and natural gas. Since the hydrogen is created via excess wind, the power is 100 percent carbon neutral.

While hydrogen technology is certainly nothing new, Lolland’s approach to giving power to the end-user, as well as usage of excess energy, has earned it multiple awards.  It was chosen as one of the three best climate projects in Denmark and the city of Vestenskov was awarded the smart m2 award of the year from Realkredit Danmark – a prominent building society.

Lolland might be the fourth largest island in Denmark, but its population is still only around 66,000 people. Even if this project may find success on the island, it does not show large-scale feasibility for larger cities and countries. Fuel cells themselves are currently not cost-effective and do not exist full on a commercial market. Still, this small island is making strides showing the rest of the world that it is possible to live without using so many fossil fuels.

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Photo credit: Sustainable Cities

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68 comments

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5:19AM PST on Dec 31, 2012

Hydrogen is the most renewable energy available.Water = Hydrogen and Oxygen.Hydrogen burns and creates water.As long as we have water on this planet.Hydrogen will always be available.
Hydrogen burning in the atmosphere is not as dangerous as a Hydrogen and 100% Oxygen mixture which is used as rocket fuel and even there it is controlled..
The burning of Hydrogen can be controlled by the amount of Oxygen in the mix.

5:19AM PST on Dec 31, 2012

Hydrogen is the most renewable energy available.Water = Hydrogen and Oxygen.Hydrogen burns and creates water.As long as we have water on this planet.Hydrogen will always be available.
Hydrogen burning in the atmosphere is not as dangerous as a Hydrogen and 100% Oxygen mixture which is used as rocket fuel and even there it is controlled..
The burning of Hydrogen can be controlled by the amount of Oxygen in the mix.

5:19AM PST on Dec 31, 2012

Hydrogen is the most renewable energy available.Water = Hydrogen and Oxygen.Hydrogen burns and creates water.As long as we have water on this planet.Hydrogen will always be available.
Hydrogen burning in the atmosphere is not as dangerous as a Hydrogen and 100% Oxygen mixture which is used as rocket fuel and even there it is controlled..
The burning of Hydrogen can be controlled by the amount of Oxygen in the mix.

10:58PM PDT on Oct 13, 2011

I'm been working for some years now to start a global solar hydrogen farm in the australian desert if you are interested in donating some money to make this a reality then visit http://www.phoenixhydrogen.org

5:04PM PDT on Jun 8, 2011

This is a wonderful idea and I would never suggest that we don't need to find a way forward nor would I ever suggest that this idea isn't a great one. I would however question the idea that hydrogen and oxygen mixed are not more dangerous than jet fuel however. Without getting too technical, jet fuel is basically kersosine and needs to be heated to +52C before it will burn (cartoons always show 'jet fuel' as being really dangerous stuff - a bit of an overstatement - what we call petrol and is known as Gas in the US, is far more dangerous). Hydrogen becomes liquid at −259C and is classed as explosive and not simply flamable. Basically jet fuel is used to power aeroplanes whilst hydrogen (in the form of hydrogen peroxide) is used to power rockets! Hydrogen and oxygen is a really dangerous mix but it is nothing compared to the risks posed by what we are currently doing (particularly nuclear fuel). It is really important that we understand exactly what the risks are; if we want to avoid them all told then save power!

7:36PM PDT on May 11, 2011

It IS feasible on the large scale - just requires large investment.

The physics is actually very simple - anyone ever done electrolysis in high school? Run an electric current through water to separate the hydrogen and oxygen.

Well, use solar power to do that on a large scale, and store the hydrogen and oxygen on a large scale. It's a powerful fuel but not much more dangerous than jet fuel.

Result of burning? Water and no pollution, and a tremendous amount of power. We could fuel all our transportation needs with it.

12:55AM PDT on Mar 31, 2011

Very neat. Thanks.

7:23AM PST on Feb 10, 2011

At this time it may not be feasible for larger places, but If they've done this, they'll be able to invent how. Ingenuity is what will save us -- and peace in the world, to do it in.

9:23AM PST on Feb 5, 2011

I would think a better way to store energy would be to pump water to a highelevation like a mountain lake and then let it flow back down through turbines as needed. The use of hydrogen in this community is to allow for commercial export of energy. Investors always look for payback in the form of money and windmills aren't free. The capacity to export energy is a good draw for capitol investment into such a project. Plus it takes a very long extension cord to get from Denmark to developing energy deprived countries in Africa.

7:49PM PST on Jan 19, 2011

Doesn't it take large amounts of energy to create hydrogen? So unless you've got excess clean energy isn't it a net loss. Maybe eventually, but how long before excess clean energy is the case.

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