There is a new startup set up in 2017 that is here to make green hydrogen more affordable. The startup is named Enapter and claims its technology will produce green hydrogen at a lower price than the alkaline and proton-exchange membrane (PEM) machines, currently dominating the market.
The company is using anion-exchange membrane (AEM) electrolyzer technology that combines the cheaper materials of alkaline electrolysers and the efficiency of PEM ones to work better with the changeable output from wind and solar plants.
The startup is also highly confident in its technology and it has set itself a “big hairy audacious goal… to be responsible for 10% of global hydrogen generation capacity by 2050”.
Regarding costs, as per Thomas Chrometzka – the chief strategist of the company, 1MW AEM electrolyser is expected to come down to $500 per kW when produced at scale in 2025 – significantly cheaper compared to $800/kW for a same-sized PEM unit.
How Does The Technology Make Green Hydrogen Cheaper?
One of the reasons that the green hydrogen company’s AEM machine is competitive at price is that the company has come up with an innovative way that makes bipolar plates, separating neighbouring cells in a stack, less expensive. The bipolar plates in the PEM electrolyzers require costly titanium to protect the stack and avoid corrosion.
The company’s technology, however, uses a 1% alkaline solution of potassium hydroxide (i.e. 99% water), so that much cheaper steel can be used instead of titanium. According to the company, the cost of its bipolar plates could go as low as $20 per kW in a 1MW electrolyzer in 2025, vs $190 per kW for a PEM machine.
Another reason for the cost reduction of the technology is the manufacturing approach. Enapter plans to mass-produce small 2.4kW electrolyzer stacks, so a 1 MW electrolyzer would require 420 stacks. Most manufacturers are producing a 1MW or 5MW electrolysis unit.
“We looked into economic history and asked, ‘what has yielded the fastest results on cost reductions?’ We saw that this was mass-producible standardized commodities,” says Chrometzka, who compares the approach to data centres that use hundreds or thousands of computer hard drives.
He also says that via producing smaller hydrogen electrolyzer units, the potential for economies of scale increases. The chief of strategy for the company also highlights the lack of need for highly expensive iridium or platinum used as a catalyst in alkaline and PEM electrolysers.
By bringing forward innovation in green hydrogen production, Enapter is becoming responsible for the future commercialization of this low carbon technology. Since the share of the hydrogen market is expected to grow in the next few decades, new approaches are highly likely to improve its efficiency, cost and eventually allow for mass deployment.