Decarbonization of the Electric Power Sector and Implications for Low-Cost Hydrogen Production from Water Electrolysis

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Abstract

Increasing development of wind and solar generation in the power sector can create economic opportunities for the deployment of water electrolyzers that produce hydrogen. Temporal variation in the marginal cost of energy in future decarbonized grids can make it favorable for electrolyzers to dispatchably ramp hydrogen production up and down in response to low- and high-cost times. Using this strategy, low-cost hydrogen production is enabled by electrolyzers that are low-capital cost and tolerant to frequent on/off cycling. Ramping down hydrogen production to a designated turndown ratio can avoid performance degradation caused by on/off cycling by not shutting the electrolyzer completely off. This comes with a slight cost penalty which can be minimized if the turndown ratio is low (i.e., the system ramps down hydrogen production to close to zero). These results suggest that electrolyzers integrated into future power systems are likely to benefit from the ability to ramp operation up and down quickly and operate in a standby mode. This analysis forms a basis for comparative tradeoffs between electrolyzer capital cost, operating strategy, and system durability and demonstrates the importance of considering all three factors in technoeconomic analysis.

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Wiley-VCH GmbH.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A20-85281

Keywords

  • capital cost
  • hydrogen
  • technoeconomic analysis
  • turndown ratio
  • water electrolysis

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