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Issue 10, 2014
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Life-cycle net energy assessment of large-scale hydrogen production via photoelectrochemical water splitting

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Abstract

Here we report a prospective life-cycle net energy assessment of a hypothetical large-scale photoelectrochemical (PEC) hydrogen production facility with energy output equivalent to 1 GW continuous annual average (1 GW HHV = 610 metric tons of H2 per day). We determine essential mass and energy flows based on fundamental principles, and use heuristic methods to conduct a preliminary engineering design of the facility. We then develop and apply a parametric model describing system-wide energy flows associated with the production, utilization, and decommissioning of the facility. Based on these flows, we calculate and interpret life-cycle net energy metrics for the facility. We find that under base-case conditions the energy payback time is 8.1 years, the energy return on energy invested (EROEI) is 1.7, and the life-cycle primary energy balance over the 40 years projected service life of the facility is +500 PJ. The most important model parameters affecting the net energy metrics are the solar-to-hydrogen (STH) conversion efficiency and the life span of the PEC cells; parameters associated with the balance of systems (BOS), including construction and operation of the liquid and gas handling infrastructure, play a much smaller role.

Graphical abstract: Life-cycle net energy assessment of large-scale hydrogen production via photoelectrochemical water splitting

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Publication details

The article was received on 01 Apr 2014, accepted on 16 Jun 2014 and first published on 16 Jun 2014


Article type: Analysis
DOI: 10.1039/C4EE01019A
Author version available: Download Author version (PDF)
Citation: Energy Environ. Sci., 2014,7, 3264-3278
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    Life-cycle net energy assessment of large-scale hydrogen production via photoelectrochemical water splitting

    R. Sathre, C. D. Scown, W. R. Morrow, J. C. Stevens, I. D. Sharp, J. W. Ager, K. Walczak, F. A. Houle and J. B. Greenblatt, Energy Environ. Sci., 2014, 7, 3264
    DOI: 10.1039/C4EE01019A

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