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01.11.2014 | LCA FOR ENERGY SYSTEMS AND FOOD PRODUCTS | Ausgabe 11/2014

The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 11/2014

Life-cycle assessment of a hydrogen-based uninterruptible power supply system using renewable energy

Zeitschrift:
The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment > Ausgabe 11/2014
Autoren:
Mitja Mori, Miha Jensterle, Tilen Mržljak, Boštjan Drobnič
Wichtige Hinweise
Responsible editor: Shabbir Gheewala

Abstract

Purpose

The paper provides an empirical assessment of an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system based on hydrogen technologies (HT-UPS) using renewable energy sources (RES) with regard to its environmental impacts and a comparison to a UPS system based on the internal combustion engine (ICE-UPS).

Methods

For the assessment and comparison of the environmental impacts, the life-cycle assessment (LCA) method was applied, while numerical models for individual components of the UPS systems (electrolyser, storage tank, fuel cell and ICE) were developed using GaBi software. The scope of analysis was cradle-to-end of utilisation with functional unit 1 kWh of uninterrupted electricity produced. For the life-cycle inventory analysis, quantitative data was collected with on-site measurements on an experimental system, project documentation, GaBi software generic databases and literature data. The CML 2001 method was applied to evaluate the system’s environmental impacts. Energy consumption of the manufacturing phase was estimated from gross value added (GVA) and the energy intensity of the industry sector in the manufacturer’s country.

Results and discussion

In terms of global warming (GW), acidification (A), abiotic depletion (AD) and eutrophication (E), manufacturing phase of HT-UPS accounts for more than 97 % of environmental impacts. Electrolyser in all its life-cycle phases contributes above 50 % of environmental impacts to the system’s GW, A and AD. Energy return on investment (EROI) for the HT-UPS has been calculated to be 0.143 with distinction between renewable (roughly 60 %) and non-renewable energy resources inputs. HT-UPS’s life-cycle GW emissions have been calculated to be 375 g of CO2 eq per 1 kWh of uninterruptible electric energy supplied. All these values have also been calculated for the ICE-UPS and show that in terms of GW, A and AD, the ICE-UPS has bigger environmental impacts and emits 1,190 g of CO2 eq per 1 kWh of uninterruptible electric energy supplied. Both systems have similar operation phase energy efficiency. The ICE-UPS has a higher EROI but uses almost none RES inputs.

Conclusions

The comparison of two different technologies for providing UPS has shown that in all environmental impact categories, except eutrophication, the HT-UPS is the sounder system. Most of HT-UPS’s environmental impacts result from the manufacturing phase. On the contrary, ICE-UPS system’s environmental impacts mainly result from operational phase. Efficiency of energy conversion from electricity to hydrogen to electricity again is rather low, as is EROI, but these will likely improve as the technology matures.

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Literatur
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