With that in mind, I recently had the opportunity to meet virtually with Richard “Rick” Lank and Rebecca “Becky” Rush, principals of Resilient Power Works, LLC in Hagerstown, MD (formerly DERP Technologies). Together with David Tucker, Ph.D., manager of the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Hybrid Performance Lab at the National Energy Technology Lab in Morgantown, WV. Rick and Becky have been working under a DOE Collaborative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to design and develop Hydrogen Hybrid Microgrids (HHMs) with advanced power controls.
Microgrids are not new to either one of them.
Since leaving the C-suite of a well-known global water meter company, in addition to the DOE effort, Becky has co-managed Windham, CT’s Safe Haven Microgrid project; helped design a model “Safe Haven Microgrid” for CT, and managed two client projects funded by the Maryland Energy Administration’s “Resiliency Through Microgrids” feasibility study grants. In addition to collaborating with Becky in her CT efforts, between 2016-2018, Rick made or led presentations to national microgrid conferences in Kansas City, MO, and Boston, MA, that led to the CRADA and the launch of the HHM and its power controls.
According to Rick and Dr. Tucker, those controls, now branded as Precision Power Platform (P3), involve integrating (and monitoring) dynamic, supervisory, and cybersecurity functions in order to enable the grid to become more resilient, more distributed in nature, and cleaner. Eventually the P3 controls are expected to make the HHM capable of load-following, permit turndown as high as 90%, have the capability of providing low-cost spinning reserves and, with cybersecurity a high priority, implement blockchain technology as a plug-in app.
Research at the NETL’s Hybrid Performance Lab has already identified a potential order-of-magnitude increase in component lives, and has demonstrated an actual seven-fold increase in the lifetime of a solid oxide fuel cell (from two to 14 years). A preliminary analysis of load following, primarily prepared by Marlene Llaugel at Rochester Institute of Technology, under the mentorship and guidance of Dr. Tucker, found that the HHM had the capacity to handle 5% load changes in the fuel cell and 10% changes in the turbine, suggesting that load following is feasible.
Rick and Dr. Tucker describe the HHM, itself, as a resilient and scalable power generating plant. Major components – in addition to the controls – include a gas turbine, compressor, natural gas reformer, solid oxide electrolyzer, and a solid oxide fuel cell that runs off of hydrogen, which the HHM can produce on-site from natural gas. This hybrid generating configuration is powered by the hydrogen, and not by burning natural gas directly in the turbine. Instead, fuel cell powers the turbine with a compressor on the same shaft, resulting in high- efficiency fuel conversion (<70%) with a minimal carbon footprint.
Given the conflict now disrupting Europe and world energy markets, in general, this project – and hydrogen power, specifically – could not be more timely.
A regular contributor to HPAC Engineering and a member of its editorial advisory board, the author is a principal at Sustainable Performance Solutions LLC, a south Florida-based engineering firm focusing on energy and sustainability. He can be reached at [email protected].