Optimizing an Integrated Renewable-Electrolysis System: Cooperative Research and Development Final Report, CRADA Number: 18-00749

Joshua Eichman, Mariya Koleva, Omar Jose Guerra Fernandez, Brady McLaughlin

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Hydrogen is a versatile energy carrier that is used in a wide variety of chemical and industrial processes. Producing hydrogen using electrolysis can enable integration of multiple sectors including electricity, heating, and industrial sectors; however, the cost of producing hydrogen from electrolysis remains a challenge for encouraging greater adoption. With growing amounts of renewable generation on the California grid, there is downward pressure on wholesale electricity prices, particularly during the afternoon from photovoltaics (PV). These lower, or even potentially negative prices, challenge the business cases for new and existing PV plants. In addition, as the grid transitions to less flexible generation, there is greater need for system flexibility. To help improve the economics for both solar PV and hydrogen production using electrolyzers, we explore the benefit of combining PV and electrolysis systems. The optimal breakeven hydrogen production cost for six unique market participation configurations is calculated at six candidate locations where PV is already installed. The six market configurations include islanded, separated, retail, net energy metering (NEM), hybrid retail/wholesale and wholesale. Using the Revenue Operation and Device Optimization Model (RODeO) model, the optimal breakeven hydrogen price over the lifetime of the equipment is calculated. The cost includes production, storage, and compression in preparation for gaseous delivery trucks. Revenue streams include the sale of hydrogen, low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) credits, renewable electricity sold to the grid, and Renewable Energy Credits (REC). The costs included are the electricity costs, capital and fixed operation and maintenance cost (FOM) for the electrolyzer, PV, and storage and compression systems as well as taxes and financing costs. In addition, cost reductions are achieved through retail and wholesale rate optimization, by which electricity is purchased at the lowest price and sold, if possible, at the highest price. For all locations, the breakeven hydrogen production cost results show that, in the order of decreasing cost, the system configurations are islanded (highest), separated, NEM, retail, hybrid retail/wholesale, and wholesale (lowest). The resulting system design balances between the capital and maintenance cost components, the operation costs (i.e., electricity costs) and the additional market revenues. The integration of solar PV and electrolysis is shown to provide a mutually beneficial relationship. For PV, integration with electrolysis offers the potential to hedge against wholesale market price volatility, and integration with electrolysis may offer the potential to defer or avoid transmission investment to deliver power to the point-of-use and instead use it on-site. When compared with SMR without considering any renewable hydrogen premiums, this study finds that PV + Electrolysis systems with current costs are likely not competitive; however, with cost reductions for electrolysis equipment consistent with DOE projections, it was found that systems with wholesale market access would be competitive, largely on account of both low capital costs and low-cost electricity. The electrolysis units can provide greater flexibility than is required based on retail rate optimization, so there is an opportunity for a utility or CAISO to increase system flexibility with PV + Electrolysis systems in return for commensurate compensation. In this way, there are potentially several solutions that fall between the hybrid configuration and the wholesale configuration that could provide sufficient compensation for a PV + Electrolysis unit to compete with SMR while also providing greater flexibility to the grid.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages67
StatePublished - 2020

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5400-75635


  • breakeven cost
  • business case
  • California
  • cost-effectiveness
  • demand flexibility
  • demand response
  • electrolysis
  • flexible load
  • hydrogen
  • market optimization
  • optimization
  • PV plus electrolysis
  • renewable integration
  • renewable premium
  • retail market
  • wholesale market


Dive into the research topics of 'Optimizing an Integrated Renewable-Electrolysis System: Cooperative Research and Development Final Report, CRADA Number: 18-00749'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this