H like hope - ADAC - Publication Nr. 2 Summer 2020

"H" is not only the chemical symbol for hydrogen, it also stands for hope when it comes to the energy transition. At the forefront of the topic: the region Rostock.

"Water is the coal of the future." Jules Verne wrote this sentence in 1874 - and it is more relevant than ever. Because hydrogen means clean energy. The properties of the chemical element have long been known, but it is only now that hydrogen is being used on a large scale for energy systems. The reason for this is that technology has developed further, and costs are falling accordingly. Why the topic of hydrogen is becoming increasingly important in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania: a constant breeze is blowing on the coast. It can be used to generate green electricity, which in turn can be stored with hydrogen. No wonder that there are some companies around Rostock that have been dealing with renewable energies for a long time. Wind-Projekt GmbH was founded in Börgerende in 1994, and since 2013 the company has maintained an energy storage system based on hydrogen. But apart from the fact that the German government wants to use hydrogen to achieve its ambitious climate protection goals and that the region is hoping for federal funding - there is also a lot going on around Rostock: emano has built a new factory on the northern outskirts of Teterow - she developed plastic containers in which the gas can be stored. And in Laage, Teterower Apex Energy GmbH will open Europe's largest grid-connected hydrogen plant in June. "No one can avoid hydrogen today - and we can really score with green hydrogen here," says Dr. Peter Sponholz, Chief Technical Officer at Apex Group. Sponholz describes his company's new offering as follows: "We are a full-service provider for tailor-made energy solutions of all kinds, have specialized in hydrogen and offer a complete range for our customers on 74,000 square meters." Who can not imagine anything like this: Apex's future customers include municipal utilities, housing associations or automotive suppliers - in principle, any company that needs a lot of electricity for people or machines. But not the electricity that is obtained from fossil fuels, but CO2-neutral from solar energy or wind power. Up to now, the problem of green energy has been the insufficient storage capacity of the grids: in the past, wind turbines even had to be switched off when the wind was blowing hard and the power grid could not absorb the energy generated. In the newly built plant in Laage, systems are presented and offered that convert wind power into hydrogen, a principle that is called "Power to Gas". To do this, the lightest gas in the world can be stored in containers - which can then be used to generate electricity and heat again. The result is CO2-neutral energy that can be called up exactly when you need it.

And what else is not available in Germany: In Laage, all hydrogen-related technologies are gathered under one roof - from hydrogen generation through electrolysis to the fuel cell and the combined heat and power plant, which not only generates electricity, but also heat. But to stay with the keyword fuel cell: it is actually considered a key technology for clean mobility. It is therefore not surprising that the Apex Group is also extremely interested in the topic: The company has been cooperating with the Stralsund University for a long time and sponsors its hydrogen-powered racing cars. With great success, as one has to say: it won the European championship title for the third time in a row at the Shell Eco-marathon last year and broke the world record in terms of efficiency: Because the race is not about speed, but about longest route with the lowest consumption. Nevertheless, the triumphal march of fuel cell technology in the passenger car sector is still a long way off. One reason is the high price: For example, Toyota has been offering the Mirai since 2015, but it costs almost 80,000 euros - and you pay almost ten euros for a kilo of hydrogen. On the other hand: the tank of a fuel cell vehicle holds five kilos, which can go up to 500 kilometers, and charging takes only three to five minutes. After all: The price for the second generation of the Mirai should no longer be quite as high as Toyota announced, and other car manufacturers will also rely on the technology in the future. BMW has announced that it will produce a small-scale fuel cell model in two years, and Bavaria is also considering delivering to customers in larger numbers from 2025. Perhaps at this point the lack of petrol stations is no longer so blatant: At present there is one petrol station in Germany for almost 6000 people and only one hydrogen petrol pump for around one million inhabitants. However, the numbers are increasing continuously. And there will also be another hydrogen filling station in Laage in the future, which will be sufficient to supply 200 cars and more than 40 buses. You can see: So there is hope.

Author: Wiebke Brauer

Images: APEX Group