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Hydrogen cells and agriculture: The future of green energy in the countryside

Power to gas technology could go further to save the environment from fossil fuel emmissions, by increasing the use of clean fuel from sources of wind, solar and tidal power in rural areas. Companies such as ITM Power in the United Kingdom are already manufacturing electrolyser systems used for power to gas storage and hydrogen refuelling stations, but there are still many new opportunities for how this technology could be used in agriculture.

If the hydrogen fuel station could be brought to the farm yard or the village, then it could serve both the needs of local transport as well as agricultural vehicles and equipment. At the moment few manufacturers of tractors are aware of the full potential of hydrogen fuel cell technology for their industry, but it is worth looking at how hydrogen to electric power is being used in other heavy vehicle applications.

The REVIVE (Refuse Vehicle Innovation and Validation in Europe) project has developed 15 hydrogen fuel cell refuse trucks in 8 different cities across Europe. The cities involved in the project are Breda; Helmond; Amsterdam; Groningen; Antwerp; South Tyrol (Bolzano and Merano); and Freiburg. The trucks built for this project are useful, because they carry out their tasks of waste disposal, as well as being zero emission heavy duty vehicles, which means they do not run on diesel or any other fossil fuel, so they can meet the challenges of climate change and air polution. This project is funded by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking (FCH2JU), a public private partnership supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, the New European Research Grouping on Fuel Cells and Hydrogen (N. ERGHY), and Hydrogen Europe.

According to the project’s website “Most refuse trucks operate from a single depot, allowing them to be incorporated into captive fleets. This improves the utilisation of local hydrogen refuelling infrastructure, and thus the infrastructure’s economics.”

If heavy duty vehicles can operate from a single depot, then likewise a farm yard that has a hydrogen refuelling facility on site – powered by a wind turbine, solar panels or biomass plant – could easily provide the fuel needs of the farm’s hydrogen fuel cell powered tractors. The storage of hydrogen energy from renewable energy sources is ideal for decentralized infrastructure, which could provide the electricty supply to a rural community.


©Jolyon Gumbrell 2019

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