Mainz/Munich, 15 May 2014 – Today, Germany’s Minister of Economics and Technology, Sigmar Gabriel, together with representatives of power utility Stadtwerke Mainz AG, Siemens AG, The Linde Group and RheinMain University of Applied Sciences, gave the starting signal for the construction of the Energiepark Mainz. From 2015 on the energy storage project, which is receiving financial support from the ministry, could make an important contribution to the success of the energy turnaround in Germany, said Mr Gabriel during the foundation stone ceremony in the state capital of Rhineland-Palatinate.
Starting next year, the jointly developed pilot plant will produce major quantities of hydrogen using electricity from renewable sources, mostly from nearby wind power stations. This hydrogen can be stored, loaded into tank trailers or fed directly into the natural gas grid, for use in generating heat or electricity. This makes it possible to store electricity from renewable energy sources. The growing network of hydrogen filling stations for emission-free fuel cell-powered vehicles can also be supplied from Mainz by tank trailers.
“Innovations and state-of-the-art energy technologies are the keys to the energy supply of the future. Therefore, we must firmly establish and develop energy-related research as a strategic element of our energy policy,” said Mr Gabriel. “Today, we are firing the starter’s gun for an innovative storage technology that might well become an important building block of the German energy turnaround. More projects like this one are needed to leverage new energy technologies even stronger.”
The project’s aim is to further develop and test innovative technologies for hydrogen electrolysis using renewable energy sources. Already today, wind and solar power stations have to be switched off at times due to insufficient capacity of the energy grid. This will probably happen even more often in the future. At the new energy park, however, this “surplus” sustainable electricity can be stored and used later, according to the actual power demand. This is achieved by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. In this way, renewable energy becomes more flexible and will be available exactly when it’s needed.
Around 17 million euros are being invested to realize the energy park, with support coming from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology as part of its "Energy Storage Funding Initiative". “We as a power utility are increasingly concerned with security of supply. But since wind does not always blow and sun does not always shine when we would like them to, more storage capacity is essential to bring forward the energy turnaround,” explained Dr Werner Sticksel and Detlev Höhne, Members of the Executive Board of Stadtwerke Mainz.
At the heart of the research facility will be the electrolysis hall, featuring a hydrogen electrolysis system developed by Siemens. The principle of electrolysis has been tried and tested over a number of decades. What makes the Mainz plant stand out compared to other, smaller pilot projects is its potential power intake of 6 megawatts, making it the world’s largest hydrogen electrolysis facility using modern PEM technology. This puts the plant in Mainz in an appropriate performance category to ease bottlenecks in the distribution network.
To Professor Siegfried Russwurm, Member of the Executive Board of Siemens AG, the construction of the research plant means an important step towards the realization of a sustainable, industrial-grade hydrogen economy: “In order to shape the future of energy and business in Germany, political framework setting as well as sustainable research has to be on top of the agenda. With the PEM electrolysis that is used here, Siemens is offering a promising technology to turn the hydrogen vision into reality. We are extremely grateful to be part of this project. Stadtwerke Mainz proves to be both courageous and far-sighted by betting on water electrolysis as a part of tomorrow’s power economy.”
„As a leading supplier of hydrogen plants we have since many years been working on the development of this environmentally friendly energy carrier,“ said Olaf Reckenhofer, responsible for Linde’s gases business in central Europe. “What makes this energy park so special is that the partners are going to realize a pilot project in an unmatched order of magnitude. It will demonstrate the many advantages of hydrogen to an even broader public.”
Within this project, Linde is responsible for hydrogen purification, compression, storage and filling. The innovative features of Linde’s proprietary ionic compression technology will enable a very energy-efficient compression and a highly flexible plant operation.
The RheinMain University of Applied Sciences is in charge of the project’s scientific aspects. The findings from the research project will be utilized and assessed as part of at least one doctorate thesis. “We are looking forward to bring our long-standing research expertise in sustainable energy application and storage to this ground-breaking project,” says Professor Dr Christiane Jost, Vice President of the RheinMain University. “Young engineering students will get the opportunity to gain first-hand experience with these future-oriented technologies. That is exactly in line with our priority tasks.”
“Stadtwerke Mainz is tackling a major task of the energy turnaround,“ said Eveline Lemke, Minister for Economy, Climate Protection, Energy and Regional Planning in Rhineland-Palatinate. “This is a huge step forward for enterprises, for we will need large energy storage capacities. The novel hydrogen electrolysers from Siemens are made for industrial-scale use, and solutions like these are eagerly awaited elsewhere, too. Storing solar and wind energy enhances our security of supply: the summer sun can be stored until winter and strong winds for calm periods. Our state capital is betting on the future of renewables.”
Also Michael Ebling, Mayor of the City of Mainz, is happy to have this innovative research facility within the city’s boundaries. “Mainz has made good progress with the energy turnaround in the past four to five years. Stadtwerke Mainz can justly claim to play a leading role in the energy turnaround. But building wind and solar power plants alone is not enough. We also want to make a significant contribution to expanding our power grid wisely and to storing renewable energy.”
The Linde Group is a world-leading gases and engineering company with around 63,500 employees in more than 100 countries. Under the "Clean Technology by Linde" label, the company offers a wide range of products and technologies that help to render renewable energy sources financially viable, and significantly slow down the depletion of fossil resources or reduce the level of CO2 emitted. This ranges from specialty gases for solar cell production, industrial-scale CO2 separation and application technologies to alternative fuels and energy carriers such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) and hydrogen.
Stadtwerke Mainz AG is one of the leading municipal utilities on the German market. Its sole shareholder is the city of Mainz. The SWM corporate group ensures reliability in the supply of energy (electricity, gas, heat), drinking water and mobility to the city of Mainz and the surrounding region. The company has been successfully pursing a sustainable change in energy policy for a number of years now.
Siemens AG is a global powerhouse in electrical engineering and electronics, operating in the fields of industry, energy and healthcare as well as providing infrastructure solutions, primarily for cities and metropolitan areas. For over 165 years, Siemens has stood for technological excellence, innovation, quality, reliability and internationality. The company is the world's largest provider of environmental technologies. Around 40 per cent of its total revenue stems from green products and solutions. In its Drive Technologies Division, Siemens is developing a hydrogen electrolysis system based on PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) technology.
The RheinMain University of Applied Sciences is one of the largest and one of the leading institutions of its kind. It is recognized for its modern teaching program as well as its application-oriented research. With 3,000 students, the Rüsselsheim-based Faculty of Engineering is the university's largest. It has been researching into hydrogen and fuel cell technology for a number of years now and is involved in several related projects and networks of excellence.
Dr. Thomas Hagn
Stadtwerke Mainz AG
Siemens AG-Industry Sector