As a bullet train speeds by within the background, a liquid hydrogen tank towers over solar panels and hydrogen fuel cells at Panasonic’s Kusatsu plant in Japan. Combined with a Tesla Megapack storage battery, the hydrogen and solar can deliver enough electricity to power the location’s Ene-Farm fuel cell factory.
As bullet trains whiz by at 285 kilometers per hour, Panasonic’s Norihiko Kawamura looks over Japan’s tallest hydrogen storage tank. The 14-meter structure looms over the Tokaido Shinkansen Line tracks outside the traditional capital of Kyoto, in addition to a big array of solar panels, hydrogen fuel cells and Tesla Megapack storage batteries. The facility sources can generate enough juice to run a part of the manufacturing site using renewable energy only.
“This will be the most important hydrogen consumption site in Japan,” says Kawamura, a manager on the appliance maker’s Smart Energy System Business Division. “We estimate using 120 tons of hydrogen a yr. As Japan produces and imports an increasing number of hydrogen in the long run, this will likely be a really suitable form of plant.”
Sandwiched between a high-speed railway and highway, Panasonic’s factory in Kusastsu, Shiga Prefecture, is a sprawling 52 hectare site. It was originally inbuilt 1969 to fabricate goods including fridges, one among the “three treasures” of household appliances, together with TVs and washing machines, that Japanese coveted because the country rebuilt after the devastation of World War II.
Today, one corner of the plant is the H2 Kibou Field, an illustration sustainable power facility that began operations in April. It consists of a 78,000-liter hydrogen fuel tank, a 495 kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell array made up of 99 5kW fuel cells, 570kW from 1,820 photovoltaic solar panels arranged in an inverted “V” shape to catch probably the most sunlight, and 1.1 megawatts of lithium-ion battery storage.
On one side of the H2 Kibou Field, a big display indicates the quantity of power being produced in real time from fuel cells and solar panels: 259kW. About 80% of the ability generated comes from fuel cells, with solar accounting for the remaining. Panasonic says the power produces enough power to satisfy the needs of the location’s fuel cell factory — it has peak power of about 680kW and annual usage of some 2.7 gigawatts. Panasonic thinks it could actually be a template for the following generation of latest, sustainable manufacturing.
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“That is the primary manufacturing site of its kind using 100% renewable energy,” says Hiroshi Kinoshita of Panasonic’s Smart Energy System Business Division. “We wish to expand this solution towards the creation of a decarbonized society.”
A synthetic intelligence-equipped Energy Management System (EMS) routinely controls on-site power generation, switching between solar and hydrogen, to attenuate the quantity of electricity purchased from the local grid operator. For instance, if it is a sunny summer day and the fuel cell factory needs 600kW, the EMS might prioritize the solar panels, deciding on a combination of 300kW solar, 200 kW hydrogen fuel cells, and 100kW storage batteries. On a cloudy day, nevertheless, it’d minimize the solar component, and boost the hydrogen and storage batteries, that are recharged at night by the fuel cells.
The 495kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell array is made up of 99 5KW fuel cells. Panasonic says it is the world’s first site of its kind to make use of hydrogen fuel cells toward creating a producing plant running on 100% renewable energy.
“Crucial thing to make manufacturing greener is an integrated energy system including renewable energy equivalent to solar and wind, hydrogen, batteries and so forth,” says Takamichi Ochi, a senior manager for climate change and energy at Deloitte Tohmatsu Consulting. “To try this, the Panasonic example is near an excellent energy system.”
With grey hydrogen, not totally green yet
The H2 Kibou Field is just not totally green. It relies on so-called grey hydrogen, which is generated from natural gas in a process that may release plenty of carbon dioxide. Tankers haul 20,000 liters of hydrogen, chilled in liquid form to minus 250 Celsius, from Osaka to Kusatsu, a distance of some 80 km, about once every week. Japan has relied on countries like Australia, which has greater supplies of renewable energy, for hydrogen production. But local supplier Iwatani Corporation, which partnered with Chevron earlier this yr to construct 30 hydrogen fueling sites in California by 2026, has opened a technology center near Osaka that is concentrated on producing green hydrogen, which is created without using fossil fuels.
One other issue that’s slowing adoption is cost. Although electricity is comparatively expensive in Japan, it currently costs rather more to power a plant with hydrogen than using power from the grid, but the corporate expects Japanese government and industry efforts to enhance supply and distribution will make the element significantly cheaper.
“Our hope is that hydrogen cost will go down, so we will achieve something like 20 yen per cubic meter of hydrogen, after which we’ll give you the option to attain cost parity with the electrical grid,” Kawamura said.
Panasonic can also be anticipating that Japan’s push to develop into carbon-neutral by 2050 will boost demand for brand spanking new energy products. Its fuel cell factory at Kusatsu has churned out over 200,000 Ene-Farm natural gas fuel cell for home use. Commercialized in 2009, the cells extract hydrogen from natural gas, generate power by reacting it with oxygen, heat and store hot water, and deliver as much as 500 watts of emergency power for eight days in a disaster. Last yr, it began selling a pure hydrogen version targeted at industrial users. It desires to sell the fuel cells within the U.S. and Europe because governments there have more aggressive hydrogen cost-cutting measures than Japan. In 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy launched a so-called Hydrogen Shot program that goals to slash the associated fee of unpolluted hydrogen by 80% to $1 per 1 kilogram over 10 years.
Panasonic doesn’t plan to extend the dimensions of its H2 Kibou Field in the intervening time, wanting to see other corporations and factories adopt similar energy systems.
It won’t necessarily make economic sense today, Kawamura says, “but we would like to begin something like this so it’s going to be ready when the associated fee of hydrogen falls. Our message is: if we would like to have 100% renewable energy in 2030, then we must start with something like this now, not in 2030.”