Tesla’s megapack, giant hydrogen tank: Panasonic’s new climate factory

Shinkansen trains pass in the background, and liquid hydrogen tanks tower above solar panels and hydrogen fuel cells at Panasonic’s Kusatsu factory in Japan. Combined with Tesla Megapack accumulators, hydrogen and sunlight can provide enough power to power the site’s Enefarm fuel cell plant.

Tim Hornyak

Panasonic’s Torihiko Kawamura looks down on Japan’s tallest hydrogen storage tank as the Shinkansen zips along at 285 kilometers per hour. The 14-meter structure towers above the tracks of the Tokaido Shinkansen on the outskirts of the ancient capital of Kyoto, and is home to dozens of solar panels, hydrogen fuel cells, Tesla Mega pack storage battery. The power supply can generate enough energy to run part of the manufacturing site using only renewable energy.

“This could be the largest hydrogen consumption site in Japan,” says Kawamura, manager of the home appliance maker’s smart energy systems division. “We estimate that we will use 120 tonnes of hydrogen per year. Japan will produce and import more and more hydrogen in the future, so this will be a very suitable type of plant.”

Located in Kusatsu City, Shiga Prefecture, sandwiched between high-speed railways and highways, Panasonic’s factory is located on a vast 52-hectare site. Originally, as a country recovering from the devastation of World War II, he was founded in 1969 to manufacture refrigerators, televisions, washing machines, etc., one of the “three treasures” of home appliances coveted by the Japanese. was built.

Today, part of the plant is the H2 Hope Field, a sustainable power generation demonstration facility that began operation in April. It consists of a 78,000 liter hydrogen fuel tank, a 495 kW hydrogen fuel cell array composed of 99 5 kW fuel cells, and 570 kW from 1,820 solar panels arranged in an inverted “V” shape. and captures the most sunlight. Lithium-ion battery storage.

A large display on one side of the H2 Kibo field shows in real time the amount of power generated from the fuel cells and solar panels: 259kW. About 80% of the electricity generated comes from fuel cells and the rest from solar power. Panasonic said the facility produces enough electricity to meet the needs of the on-site fuel cell plant. The peak power is about 680kW and the annual consumption is about 2.7GW. Panasonic believes that this will serve as a model for the next generation of new, sustainable manufacturing.

Mr. Hiroshi Kinoshita, Panasonic Smart Energy Systems Division, “We want to expand this solution to realize a decarbonized society.”

The 495-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell array consists of 99 5KW fuel cells. Using hydrogen fuel cells, Panasonic says he is the first site in the world to build a manufacturing plant that runs on 100% renewable energy.

Tim Hornyak

An artificial intelligence-powered energy management system (EMS) automatically controls local power generation, switching between solar and hydrogen, minimizing the amount of power purchased from local grid operators. For example, if it is a sunny summer day and the fuel cell plant requires 600kW, EMS will prioritize solar panels and decide on a combination of 300kW solar, 200kW hydrogen fuel cells, and 100kW storage batteries. However, it may minimize the solar component on cloudy days and enhance the hydrogen and accumulators charged by the fuel cell at night.

Takamichi Ochi, senior manager of climate change and energy at Deloitte Tohmatsu Consulting, said: “To do so, the Panasonic example is close to an ideal energy system.”

Gray hydrogen, not quite green yet

The H2 hope field is not completely green. It relies on so-called gray hydrogen produced from natural gas in a process that can release large amounts of carbon dioxide. The tank truck transports 20,000 liters of hydrogen in the liquid state, cooled to minus 250 degrees Celsius, about once a week at a distance of about 80 km from Osaka to Kusatsu. Japan has relied on countries such as Australia, which have large supplies of renewable energy, for hydrogen production. However, local supplier Iwatani Sangyo chevron Earlier this year, it opened a technology center near Osaka with plans to build 30 hydrogen fueling facilities in California by 2026. make green hydrogencreated without the use of fossil fuels.

Another issue slowing adoption is cost. Electricity is relatively expensive in Japan, and while it is currently much more costly to power a plant with hydrogen than using electricity from the grid, the company says it is working to improve supply and distribution. We expect the elements to be significantly cheaper due to efforts by the Japanese government and industry.

“Our hope is that the cost of hydrogen will come down and we will be able to achieve around 20 yen per cubic meter of hydrogen. Then we will be able to achieve the same cost as the power grid,” Kawamura said.

Panasonic also expects Japan’s efforts to become carbon neutral by 2050 to boost demand for new energy products. At the company’s fuel cell plant in Kusatsu, he has produced more than 200,000 Ene-Farm natural gas fuel cells for home use. Commercialized in 2009, the cell extracts hydrogen from natural gas and reacts it with oxygen to generate electricity, heat and store hot water, and provide up to 500 watts of emergency power for eight days in the event of a disaster. Last year, it started selling a pure hydrogen version for commercial users.We want to sell fuel cells in the US and Europe because the governments of those countries More aggressive hydrogen cost reduction measures from Japan. In 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy will launch the so-called Hydrogen Shot Program, which aims to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen by 80% to $1 per kilogram over 10 years.

Panasonic hopes other companies and factories will adopt similar energy systems, and has no immediate plans to expand the scale of the H2 Kibo field.

“It doesn’t necessarily make economic sense,” Kawamura said, “but we want to start doing things like this so that we’re ready when the cost of hydrogen drops. Now, not in 2030.” You have to start with something like this.”

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