In 2008 in the small village of Vestenskov in Denmark, the first-ever hydrogen village saw the light of day.
In 2008, a project called The Danish Micro Combined Heat and Power Project was established as a dynamic development project with an ambition to:
- Increase the efficiency of the energy supply in Denmark and abroad
- Reduce the CO2 emissions from homes
- Help integration of renewables and balancing the power grid
- Create growth in the Danish energy industry
- Have micro combined heat and power units ready for consumers in Denmark and abroad after the end of the project in 2014
Nine Danish energy companies took part in the project, providing all the competences necessary to develop, test and demonstrate the use of micro CHPs in private households.
IRD Fuel Cells - a pioneer within fuel cells
Already in 2006, IRD Fuel Cells had developed a technology that enabled fuel cells to store the unused electricity produced by e.g. wind turbines and solar cells in the form of hydrogen - a sustainable and renewable combination. The hydrogen was then used in a chemical process to generate heat and electricity. The expectation for this new technology was in the short run to show that the micro-combined heat and power system is a serious alternative to the use of fossil fuels, and in the longer run to reduce the CO2 emissions, and to create growth in the Danish energy industry.
However, this technology had never been tested on a larger scale or in a commercial context, so IRD Fuel Cells decided - as a pioneer in the field of fuel cells - to join the project. The ambition was to examine whether it is possible to make the households in Vestenskov completely self-sufficient with both heat and electricity purely based on renewables and CO2 neutral green energy.
IRD's successful contribution to the project
IRD's contribution was a low-temperature PEM fuel cell system fuelled by hydrogen having a power of 1.5 kW. 33 households in Vestenskov in Lolland, Denmark had one of these installed.
The plan was that during 2013 and 2014, the systems should provide the households with both electricity and heat produced with hydrogen from a large electrolysis plant placed on a field behind Vestenskov's nursing home.
At the end of the project in 2014, the results were reviewed and the conclusion was clear: The hydrogen based micro combined heat and power units can replace the existing electricity and heat supply in private households as a satisfactory replacement. However, mass production is necessary to achieve a competitive price.
The future of micro combined heat and power units
In Denmark, there is currently no basis for selling larger amounts of these systems, since the supply of electricity and heat is so well developed. However, in other countries, such as Japan, the situation is different:
Japan is well ahead in this area, as the Japanese politicians have set a goal that 10 percent of the Japanese households must be powered by hydrogen in 2030. A decision directly related to the 2011 incident at the CHP plant in Fukushima, which not only cut off many Japanese from their electricity and heat supply, but also put a spotlight on the problems of being dependant on nuclear power.