5. Thinking Outside the Grid
- Identify alternatives for using non-grid energy and storage solutions
- Identify main impediments to using non-grid sources
- Discover resources for deploying non-grid solutions
- Explore how storage solutions might provide resiliency and other benefits for hospitals
- -Electrical utilities, especially in CA, have goals and paths defined to convert the electrical grid to 100% clean energy from renewable sources and to electrify the majority of buildings.
- -Microgrid challenges include lack of technical education, traditional thinking re normal power vs emergency power, financial barriers, current fuel cells primarily running on natural gas, and the legacy codes and restrictions around backup systems.
- -Hydrogen production occurs today in many sites across the country, but and is mostly used in high-value industrial processes and products such as refining, methanol, and ammonia.
- -Currently, hydrogen is made from a mix of energy sources—renewables, nuclear, and fossil fuels. Steam reformation of methane with fossil fuels is the most common and is an energy- and carbon-intensive process. Low-carbon production of hydrogen with this method requires carbon capture and sequestration.
- -There are significant technical challenges to pushing hydrogen through the existing gas pipeline system, regardless of how it is produced. There are some projects ongoing to strengthen pipelines to allow the infusion of hydrogen into natural gas lines.
- -Widespread use of hydrogen likely also depends on storage. Currently, there is only one major hydrogen storage facility in the US.
- -Fuel cells have been in development since early 2000s and exist in dozens of commercial buildings throughout the US. Currently, fuel cells run on natural gas to generate electricity.
- -Microgrid opportunities lie in the need for reliability, beneficial financial structures such as PPAs and incentives, the looming shift to hydrogen as a carbon-free fuel, and the progress that has been made on new microgrid-friendly codes.
- -Per the DOE, Hydrogen is projected to reach hospitals through the pipeline by 2030, but only as a small percentage mix with methane.
- -Currently-deployed fuel cells actually strip carbon out of methane to produce the hydrogen on which they operate. Direct use of hydrogen is, therefore, not a major challenge in fuel cell design.
- -Hydrogen fuel cells can operate both ways, that is, using hydrogen to generate electricity and using electricity to generate hydrogen. (e.g. from renewable sources when there is an excess of renewable power)
- -A pilot project in a hospital in Southern California will combine methane fuel cells, solar PV, and batteries into a microgrid that operates in parallel with the utility grid.
Call to Action
- -Explore microgrids using a variety of solar PV, battery storage, and fuel cells as a method to reduce peak demand and provide resiliency in the form of backup power, eliminating the need for diesel generators.
- -Explore using the microgrid as the primary power source with the utility serving as the backup.
- -Still have questions? Join the conversation about hydrogen and fuel cells on our decarb:Healthcare community page! Start here.