Hydrogen Generation Via PEM Water Electrolysis Is An Attractive Option For Renewable Energy Storage


  • Simple technology
  • Carbon-free chemical cycle
  • Excellent load-following characteristics
  • Separation of energy generation from storage
  • Lack of corrosive electrolytes

The current global consumption levels of fossil fuels are unsustainable in the long term, both from a supply standpoint as well as the impact on the environment. The amount of carbon-free energy required to replace fossil fuels in order to cease the present increase in carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere has been estimated to be 10-20 TW by 2050. It has been suggested that solar and wind energy are by far the most likely candidates to meet our future energy needs based on the available capacity. The problem is that these renewable sources are not consistently accessible, and thus storage must be an integral part of the energy solution. Hydrogen generation from renewable energy sources for frequency regulation and load shifting during peak production times for use during low production periods is one attractive solution to the energy crisis.

Water electrolysis has benefits over other hydrogen generation technologies due to the lack of carbon footprint when integrated with a renewable source of energy. Specifically, proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis is a promising technology for hydrogen generation applications because of the lack of corrosive electrolytes, small footprint, and ability to generate at high pressure, requiring only deionized water and an energy source. PEM electrolysis also produces very pure hydrogen, with none of the typical catalyst poisons that may be found in hydrogen produced from alkaline electrolysis or reforming.

Since 1996, Proton Energy Systems’ (now Proton OnSite) sole purpose has been the commercialition of PEM electrochemical technology. Proton brings a team with extensive technology background and experience and a unique advantage in PEM technology. The HOGEN® C-series hydrogen generation system is the latest offering from Proton OnSite for large-scale hydrogen production from renewables. The C-series system builds directly off the commercial success of other currently fielded HOGEN systems with improvements in efficiency and installed capital cost per kg of hydrogen. Enhanced system controls include an energy conservation mode for both the generator and temperature control unit that is well-suited to the intermittent hydrogen demand from wind or solar power. With an integrated DI water system, hydrogen quality monitoring, internal temperature control, and self-contained automatic safety system, the HOGEN C-series is a turnkey, completely integrated system for renewable hydrogen generation.

For higher demand applications, products are already in development that include the next generation of PEM electrolysis hydrogen generation systems targeting production volumes greater than 2.5 times the current largest production volume with additional advancements in efficiency and capital cost per kg.

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