Bloomberg News

Siemens to Tackle Wind-Power Doldrums With Gas Boost Option

March 13, 2012

Siemens AG (SIE) plans to introduce technology in 2015 that will allow wind-turbine electricity to be converted into gas, giving wind farms an alternative revenue stream when the grid is fully charged.

The electrolyser, a soccer-field sized plant that converts power into storable hydrogen, is in the testing phase, said Michael Weinhold, chief technology officer of Siemens’ energy businesses. It promises to overcome the challenge of how to harness fluctuating electricity output from wind farms, especially at night when demand is at its lowest.

Siemens, based in Munich, allots 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) annually to devising new technology for the energy industry. Wind farms have suffered commercially because power can’t be stored on a large scale. By contrast, the converted hydrogen can be stored by feeding it into the gas grid.

“The main problem today is the mismatch of renewable power generation and demand,” Weinhold said in an interview. “If we can offer solutions to solve that, we have a business case.”

While Germany subsidizes renewable energy, there’s no reimbursement when supply exceeds demand. Prices on the European Energy (CNE) Exchange have on occasion turned negative, implying wind farms pay to offload output. Europe’s largest economy has about half a gigawatt of offshore wind-power connected to the grid, and aims for a 20-fold increase to 10 gigawatts by 2020 after turning away from nuclear power.

Electrolysers may appeal to utilities or financial investors seeking to profit from fluctuating electricity prices, Weinhold said. For Siemens, it’s part of a plan to boost revenue from energy equipment by more than 40 percent. Siemens booked 203 million euros in charges in its most recent quarter at its power-transmission division amid delays connecting offshore wind parks to the power grid.

“We believe storage will make economic sense if more and more renewable power comes on-line and depresses power prices during peak supply times, a trend we will already witness this year,” Weinhold said. “We are currently testing the technology with customers, and it’s at the brink of being commercially viable.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Richard Weiss in Frankfurt at rweiss5@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net.


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