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Solar Production Technology
Turning solar power into green gas
Where does electricity come from when renewable energies cannot deliver during calm spells and in the hours of darkness? Storage media are essential for the overhaul of energy policy. The conversion of green power into storable methane is one of the most promising options.
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100 per cent renewable:show photos
Solar plants and wind turbines offer virtually uninterrupted electricity as a combination power plant. (Solarpraxis)
Storage product:show photos
The result of the power-to-gas process is green methane. Various test facilities are already in operation in Germany. (Solarfuel)
The way is open for green gas:show photos
The natural gas network offers plenty of space for renewable gas. (Wintershall)
Giant storage units:show photos
Underground caverns can accommodate vast quantities of hydrogen and methane. (IVG)
Researchers all over the world have a goal: They want to develop storage media that allow complete global supply using renewable energies. Power plants that generate storable methane gas using solar and wind power and convert this back into electricity when required could bring us closer to achieving this goal.
Scientists from the Reiner Lemoine Institute (Reiner Lemoine Institut, RLI), the University of Kassel, the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy Systems Technology (Fraunhofer-Institut für Windenergie und Energiesystemtechnik, IWES) and the companies Q-Cells and Solarfuel are now showing in a current study entitled "Hybrid solar-wind-methane power plants as the cornerstone of global energy supply" ("Hybride Sonne-Wind-Methan-Kraftwerke als Eckpfeiler der globalen Energieversorgung") that with further technical progress and at locations abundant in sun and wind, these power plants will be able to supply power to fossil fuel plants competitively, i.e., for less than ten euro cents per kilowatt hour, by as early as 2020.
"With a crude oil price of 150 dollars a barrel, this technology could be the cheapest form of power generation for 90 per cent of the world population in about ten years," explains managing director of the RLI Christian Breyer. This is why researchers and engineers are now intensively driving the technology forward.
The idea is simple: Solar power and wind power are dependent upon the weather as well as the time of day and year, meaning that availability fluctuates. In order to avoid fossil fuel power plants jumping in as soon as the demand exceeds the supply of green electricity, the renewable energies must be combined with storage media such as methane.