Germany, Japan partner on PV grid integration, power-to-gas tech


Researchers at Germany’s Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) and Japan’s Gifu University are collaborating on a slew of energy projects as part of concerted efforts to accelerate technology transfer and help reshape the energy landscape of both countries.

Joint projects will focus on the intelligent integration of PV into the grid, production forecasts and green power-to-gas energy storage.

The ZSW said the new partnership was built on solid ground: Both institutes conduct research in the same fields and their skill-sets are a good match.

Gifu Prefecture, on Japan’s main island of Honshu, and the German state of Baden-Württemberg have long nurtured political and economic ties and they are now extending the relationship into energy research, where the two countries have much to learn from each other, according to the ZSW.

ZSW Managing Director Frithjof Staiss said the collaboration made it easier to share experience and create better conditions “for an efficient transfer of research results into the marketplace.”

Grid management one area researchers are targeted for joint cooperation. PV systems soared in popularity in Japan last year, with output soaring to a total of some 23 GW by the end of 2014. Concerned about stability issues in their grids, local energy suppliers are viewing the booming PV market with skepticism. By teaming up with the German institute, Japanese researchers expect to benefit from the lessons learned in Germany, where the installed capacity is 16 GW higher and the integration of solar power into the distribution network is well on track.

Both partners are also striving to improve forecasts for solar and wind power generation. These predictions have to be reliable to ensure the stable and efficient operation of an electrical power supply system that draws on fluctuating energy sources.

"Gifu University and ZSW complement each other very well in their efforts to forecast weather and production quantities,” the ZSW said. The partners intend to pursue joint projects aimed to boost their models’ accuracy.

Researchers will also collaborate on green power-to-gas energy storage technology. The increasing number of fuel cells in Japan is driving demand for hydrogen that can be used in energy converters. A renewable electricity source and water can serve to generate hydrogen by electrolysis without producing carbon that adversely affects the climate. ZSW has developed its own P2G technology and Gifu University officials are considering the construction of a power-to-gas plant. ZSW scientists will provide valuable assistance if the project goes ahead, according to the German institute.

The ZSW is one of the leading institutes for applied research in the fields of photovoltaic energy, renewable fuels, battery technology, fuel cells and energy systems analysis. The three ZSW sites at Stuttgart, Ulm and Widderstall are currently staffed with around 230 scientists, engineers and technicians supported by 70 research and student assistants.