Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Amir Farajian (Committee Member), Hong Huang (Advisor), James Menart (Advisor)

Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering (MSEgr)


World energy demand has risen from about 375 exajoules (EJ) in 1990 to around 600 EJ today. The Energy Information Administration predicts that by the year 2035, this figure will rise to around 800 EJ. This places large stresses on the electric generation infrastructure. Increasingly this demand is being met by renewable energy sources. There are several reasons this is the case. The prices of renewables are dropping quickly and reaching grid parity in more regions. Utilizing renewable energy generation can help achieve energy security: adverse weather or military conflicts are less likely to impact supply routes when energy is produced closer to home. Furthermore, renewable energy technologies are attractive because they do not adversely affect the environment by releasing greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming. One major problem with the deployment of renewable technologies is their intermittent nature. In order to achieve good market penetration it is likely that some sort of energy storage needs to be employed. Several types exist such as thermal storage, pumped storage, batteries and chemicals. Chemical energy derived from renewables is attractive because it has long storage lifetimes, is easily transportable and can be produced from abundant feedstocks; as in the case of generating hydrogen from water electrolysis. Hydrogen produced from solar energy shows promise because of the abundant feedstock (water) and energy supply (the sun). One way that hydrogen can be used to buffer the intermittent nature of solar energy is by using photovoltaic modules to produce electricity which is used to electrolyze water with a regenerative fuel cell and then storing the hydrogen gas. Small-scale solar-fuel cell-hydrogen power plants have been constructed and tested, but often suffer from poor equipment reliability or improper equipment sizing. More study on the effects of component sizing on the system performance of these power plants must be performed. In this research, a computer program is developed which can simulate the long-term behavior of a solar-fuel cell-hydrogen power plant given any sizing of system components: the number and type of photovoltaic modules, the total power of the regenerative fuel cells and the hydrogen storage capacity. Taking into account the details of the system components, location of the plant, meteorological data and the demand load, this program predicts the behavior of such a power plant for any time period. In particular the program can be used to simulate time periods that eliminate the effect of the plant start-up. In essence this is done by running the program for several years to remove the effects of the initial conditions. The biggest initial condition that affects short term results is the amount of hydrogen in storage at the beginning of the simulation. Another important aspect of this program is that the simulation is done on an hourly basis. This computer program outputs important parameters such as how much of the electricity demand was met, how much excess electricity was produced, the amount of solar resource available, the power output of the photovoltaic array, the power into or out of the regenerative fuel cell, and the amount of hydrogen in storage. From these outputs, the proper sizing of a solar-fuel cell-hydrogen power plant can be determined for any size load from residential to utility-scale.

Page Count


Department or Program

Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering

Year Degree Awarded


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.