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Germany-based energy provider E.ON has begun work on a pilot plant that will enable the power generated by wind farms to be stored on the gas grid.

Beginning in 2013, the power-to-gas plant, which will be built in Falkenhagen, Germany, will handle excess power that is generated by wind farms and cannot be fed into the power grid. By storing the excess power, wind farms - which would otherwise be shut down for a while to avoid bottlenecks in the power grid - can continue to generate power.

The plant works by using electrolysis, in which about 360 cubic meters of hydrogen are produced per hour. This hydrogen can then be treated like natural gas. Once the process is complete, it can then be fed into the regional gas grid, where it is then available for producing heat and power, E.ON explains.

Power-to-gas technology is particularly attractive because of the large storage capacity offered by existing gas infrastructure, according to E.ON. Due to gas regulations, only a small amount of hydrogen gas can be fed into the gas infrastructure at the moment. In order to expand the energy-storage potential, the next step is to convert hydrogen into synthetic gas.

Theoretically, this means that the entire storage capacity of the gas grid could be utilized, E.ON says. With this pilot project, the company intends to contribute significantly toward improving the efficiency of the entire process, including the integration of wind power and the injection of hydrogen into the gas grid.

E.ON says the project will help enable the power-to-gas technology to be used economically in the future and on an industrial scale.

"If Germany expands the use of renewable energy sources in the coming years as planned, the power supply on very windy or sunny days will exceed demand more and more often, and to a growing extent,” says Klaus-Dieter Maubach, member of the E.ON AG board of management.

“This will increasingly bring the power grid to the limits of its capacity,” he continues. “E.ON is, therefore, investing in the development of technologies to store large energy volumes. In this respect, power-to-gas is a promising solution for the future energy supply system.”



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