PKP Energetyka, which is developing a localised energy storage system for use by trains, has signed an agreement with SBB Energy, Poland, to supply components to build a hydrogen production and energy storage facility at the Garbce traction power substation, located around 50km from Warsaw.

The hydrogen energy storage solution concept has been developed jointly by PKP Power Engineering specialists and scientists at the University of Zielona Góra. The project now under development is designed to corroborate the feasibility of using hydrogen storage solutions to power trains, specifically by storing all of the electricity produced by the site’s solar farm, which is not immediately used for traction purposes for subsequent use.

The hydrogen-based energy production and storage system will consist of an electrolyser that converts energy the electricity generated by the solar panels into green hydrogen. This hydrogen is subsequently converted back into electricity using a fuel cell. Up to 23kg of hydrogen will be stored at any one time. The electrolyser will have a power output of 36kW, the fuel cell 20kW and the solar farm 150kWp.

The project with SBB Energy is worth Zlotys 3m ($US 680,000) and is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund. PKP Energetyka plans to initially use the resulting solution as part of the research and development phase of the project, which is focusing on solely supplying the traction substation. However, the final solution will also be capable of powering the traction system. Indeed, the technical design foresees the possibility of disconnecting the filled hydrogen cylinders for use to power rail vehicles used by PKP Energetyka.

A simplified diagram of the hydrogen storage concept.

As well as hydrogen, the traction power substation at Garbce is exploring the use of batteries for similar energy storage to offer a multifunctional traction power substation. The site will be capable of powering a single train travelling at 160km/h from four battery containers equipped with 4240 lithium-ion cells.

“Our industry is currently undergoing an energy transition that we are pursuing primarily through the Green Rail programme,” says Dr Piotr Obrycki, director of the Research and Development Office at PKP Energetyka. “Its goal is to switch 85% of the railway’s power supply to renewables by 2030. Ultimately, we want the remaining 15% to be green as well, which is why we are successively investing in modern research and development solutions that bring us closer to this goal.”

For more on PKP Energetyka’s plans, see the March edition of IRJ, p25, which is available to digital subscribers here.