Hydrogen Community Lolland - the Future is Here
In Denmark, a test community is proving hydrogen power is not 10 years into the future, but that it started back in 2006. On the island of Lolland, located in the Baltic Sea, the Danes had a problem - they produced 50 percent more electricity from wind power than they used. So what do they do? Develop a plan to create the first full-scale hydrogen-powered city of course!
Photo Credit: Denmark location map.svg
Known as the Lolland Hydrogen Community, their vision is to be the European role model for community testing and implementation of full-scale hydrogen technology. The strategy is to use three phases to retrofit and redesign the infrastructure of the village of Vestenskov, an existing community on Lolland. Once complete, all the homes in the town will be supported solely by energy from hydrogen. In phase one, a demonstration facility for residential Fuel Cell Combined Heat and Power (CHP) was constructed in the town of Nakskov, another town on the island, and began operations officially in November 2006. Excess wind energy powers an electrolyser which separates hydrogen and oxygen molecules that make water (hence H2O).
The hydrogen is storage in low pressure tanks and then with the uses of a fuel cell generates electricity and heat supplying the public energy grids. This first step was geared to optimize existing resources on Lolland as well as create new symbioses with existing energy and environmental facilities. Because this would be the first full-scale development of its kind, the Danes also felt they needed to de-mystify hydrogen technology to the people that would eventually use it. The demonstration plant uses centralized production of hydrogen to make electricity and heat which is then used to heat buildings in the area. In the end, the way in which the energy is created and delivered is same as conventional large scale infrastructure.
Photo Credit: IRD Fuel Cell Technology, Similar Fuel Cell as installed in individual homes on Lolland
In 2008, phase two began. There were to different aspects to this phase. The first was to connect many of the existing buildings to the hydrogen plant. The second part of the phase began to redefine the relationship of energy provider and end-user, because small-size individual fuel cell units were placed in five homes. The unit contains a 2kW fuel cell stack and an alternating current (AC) converter. Once hooked up, the device replaces the existing boiler. These fuel cells are no bigger than a regular sized refrigerator provides domestic electricity and heating needs for residents. This is a pure decentralize approach where energy creation occurred within each house, and a larger energy producer is not necessary to transmit electricity from utility scale facilities. Five houses were selected as test cases and the micro-CHP units were installed. These decentralized micro-fuel cells are more efficient and have greater security of energy supply. Phase two allowed authorities to test safety and operational stability for the units before they were deployed to more buildings.
The final phase will run from 2010 to 2012. An additional 35 to 40 more households will receive the 2 kW units. These fuel cells will also provide both heat and electricity for the homes. Currently the houses in Vestenskov are heated by natural gas or oil. Because the hydrogen is created from excess wind, the power is 100 percent carbon neutral.
The architecture of the island is not futuristic, nor is the design of the village. However, the Hydrogen Community Lolland has received several awards for its innovative approach to dealing with the overabundance of wind power. Because they are re-envisioning the role of end-user to energy provider, the island is making bold steps toward a energy future were infrastructure will be more distributed and the power will be in the hands of the people.