The Energiepark Mainz, planned for the Hechtsheim district of the city of Mainz, can go ahead, with construction set to start in the spring of 2014.

This has today been confirmed by Siemens, the Linde Group, RheinMain University of Applied Sciences and Stadtwerke Mainz at a joint meeting in Mainz which saw the appropriate agreements concluded. This finally gives the green light to this research project, which is receiving financial support from the German Ministry of Economics and Technology. After its commissioning in 2015, the Energiepark Mainz is set to make a significant contribution to the success of Germany’s ‘Energiewende’, or energy turnaround: in this pilot project, a specially developed electrolysis plant will produce major quantities of hydrogen, using energy sources including ‘green’ electricity from wind power. The hydrogen can be stored, loaded into tank trailers or fed directly into the natural gas grid, for heat or electricity. This allows the storage of electricity from renewable energy sources.

The background to the Mainz-based project is the steadily growing use of renewable sources for power generation in Germany. Photovoltaic and wind power plants often deliver electricity at times when it cannot be directly consumed.

“Further storage possibilities are absolutely essential if the energy turnaround is to make further progress,” is how the directors of the Stadtwerke, Dr. Werner Sticksel and Detlev Höhne, explain the rationale behind the ambitious project. “The Energiepark Mainz provides an innovative solution to this key question affecting German energy policy.”

At the heart of the research facility will be the electrolysis hall, featuring a hydrogen electrolysis system developed by Siemens in which water will be broken down into its constituents of hydrogen and oxygen. The principle of electrolysis has been tried and tested over a number of decades. The Mainz plant is remarkable in another aspect. “It will boast a potential power intake of 6 megawatts, making it the world’s largest hydrogen electrolysis facility using modern PEM technology. This puts the plant in Mainz in an appropriate performance category to ease bottlenecks in the distribution network,” explains Gaëlle Hotellier, who heads the Hydrogen Solutions Business Segment at Siemens. In future, similar plants could be put to effective use in a large number of locations.

Construction of the Energiepark Mainz is to commence in the spring of next year on the site set aside for the development.

Around €17m are being invested to realise the energy park, with support coming from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology as part of its “Energy Storage Funding Initiative”. The “Energiepark Mainz” will be one of Germany’s “beacon projects” in energy storage based on hydrogen electrolysis.

“Hydrogen is a highly interesting energy carrier, because it is easy to store and to use in a wide variety of ways,” explains Dr. Harald Ranke, who is responsible for Linde’s Clean Energy Technology activities. The gas produced in Mainz can, for instance, be transported to hydrogen filling stations by tank trailers, and used as environmentally–friendly fuel for emission-free fuel-cell vehicles. In addition, the hydrogen from Hechtsheim is to be fed into the natural gas grid, where it will be available for gas heating or modern gas and combined heat and power plants.

The findings from the research project will be utilised and assessed as part of at least one doctorate thesis. “I am already looking forward eagerly to this exciting project,” says Prof. Dr. Birgit Scheppat of the RheinMain University of Applied Sciences, “This project allows us to trial the conversion of wind energy to hydrogen on a large technical scale, and to test out which operational management concepts make sense. The objective is to optimise the use of energy from volatile sources in both economic and ecological terms.”