UNSW to Develop Hydrogen Storage for Renewables

lithium-ion batteries
Residential hydrogen storage system

A system that stores renewable energy as hydrogen and is safer for home use than lithium-ion batteries is on the horizon for researchers at UNSW Sydney. 

Researchers at UNSW Sydney with partners H2Store have received a $3.5 million investment from Providence Asset Group to develop a first-of-its-kind hydrogen storage system that could mean cheaper, safer storage for renewable energy.

Professor Kondo-Francois Aguey-Zinsou and his team at UNSW’s School of Chemical Engineering have developed a unique system that provides cheap storage and transportation of hydrogen which they expect will provide a new alternative for energy storage within two years.

The funding will help them deliver phase one of a four-stage project that includes the creation of prototypes of their hydrogen energy storage solution for residential and commercial use, demonstration units, and testing and optimisation that will enable full commercialisation of the product.

Speaking about the first phase of the project, Professor Aguey-Zinsou said that he believed his invention would offer significant advantages over current power storage solutions for home solar systems, such as the Tesla Powerwall battery.

He said: “We will be able to take energy generated through solar panels and store it as hydrogen in a very dense form, so one major advantage of our hydrogen batteries is that they take up less space and are safer than the lithium-ion batteries used in many homes today.  We can actually store about seven times more energy than the current systems.

“This means that in a residential scenario, people will be able to store a lot more energy using the same footprint as Tesla batteries, to potentially power their home, charge their cars and still have excess to sell back to the grid.”

UNSW and H2Store’s solution is expected to offer other advantages over current energy storage systems, including a lifespan of about 30 years compared with under 10 for other systems.  It also won’t carry the inherent fire risk associated with lithium-ion batteries.

The team hopes to have a 5kW home storage system prototype ready by the end of 2019 and a product on the market late in 2020. 

The researchers are also working on a large-scale storage system for solar and wind farms that will include the design of storage vessels suitable for hydrogen export. These vessels have potential to replace diesel in remote generation and large transport applications.

UNSW Dean of Engineering Professor Mark Hoffman said: “As an emerging renewable energy alternative, Australia has a real opportunity to lead to world in hydrogen storage, energy and transportation solutions.

“This is a very exciting project and I am very grateful to Providence Asset Group for investing in the pioneering work being done at UNSW.  I look forward to watching the developments over the next 12 months.”