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Zeyad Abul-Ella: ‘Full energy independence requires a fail-safe and high performance’

Zeyad Abul-Ella, founder and CEO of the HPS Home Power Solutions GmbH

A real self-sufficient energy supply extends far beyond the supply of a building with self-generated electricity. How do you plan to synchronize the different types of energy production and consumption in electricity and heat?

Sufficient storage capacity is key and a precondition to synchronized energy production and consumption. For private homes, Picea® offers a globally unique storage capacity of over 1.000 kWh energy stored in hydrogen (H2). This storage enables an all year-round independent energy supply exclusively based on the usage of solar energy. In order to efficiently use the energy storage and the energy converter components for full supply, we have developed an intelligent energy management system. The high efficiency of our energy converters and especially, the fuel cell in the combined heat and power system (CHP) with an electrical efficiency of over 50 percent, fit perfectly with modern, well insulated houses.

Besides the technical components of complex domestic energy systems, the management of subsystems plays a significant role. Would this be asking too much from the average homeowner?

Modern energy solutions, consisting of several different components, are often overwhelming private customers. Components from different manufacturers have to be elaborately integrated and controlled; often, these components are not compatible. In a holistic approach, HPS integrates all necessary components in just one device. We are able, therefore, to offer an ideally designed, coordinated and well controlled solution for our clients. This solution provides the homeowner with an optimized all-in-one system offering independence from a single source, with a single interface and one guarantor.

The entire Picea® control system, including its subsystems, is covered by our integrated energy management system. The client does not have to control and adapt the system but lives in his CO2 free house while Picea® takes care of the energy supply. Picea® operates by forecasting the energy output and consumption. The only operational parameters that the homeowner enters via our provided app are the desired ambient temperature and the fan settings for the integrated ventilation device.

What do you mean by your management systems would work with: ‘forecasting the energy output and consumption’?

Energy output and consumption have to match at any given time. Our energy management system knows the dynamic weather forecast of the following days and complementarily works with a longer-term, location dependent prognosis on the output side. Against this backdrop, intelligent algorithms in our control system predict the status of the energy storage devices in advance. With knowledge of the day of the week and the time and thus also expected energy consumption, the energy management optimizes the efficiency and the performance of the energy converters. Knowing the characteristics of hydrogen transformers and battery, they can be used sustainably in respect to their lifespan, and in terms of maintenance and costs.

What space requirements need to be considered when planning a single-family house of four people to be completely self-sufficient with the Picea® system by HPS Home Power Solutions?

With our first generation we primarily provide the domestic electricity demand energy all year-round based on self-generated solar energy. At the same time, we contribute to reducing heating costs. Our solution consists of three components: a photovoltaic system on the roof, the energy management system in the technic room of the house and a seasonal energy storage. In a four-persons household, the photovoltaic system should range around 8-12 kWp. Picea® needs 1.5 m2 in the technic room inside and 3 m2 outside the building.

Is the system developed by HPS exclusively designed for new buildings or is it possible to upgrade energy efficiency also in existing buildings?

Picea® provides domestic electricity with self-generated solar energy all year-round and reduces heating costs at the same time. It can be used in already existing properties and new buildings. A completely independent energy supply with electricity and heat, however, is up to now only available for new buildings.

What role does the reduction of energy losses play in this concept?

Energy losses have to be specified further in this context. It can be distinguished between losses of thermal energy of the building envelope, losses of electrical energy as well as energy losses from Picea® itself. Regarding the power supply through Picea® – in particular, in existing buildings with a heating in place – the reduction of heat loss of the building envelope is not relevant to the concept. Picea® provides a CO2 free power supply in existing buildings, and at the same time process heat is used to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels for heat production – also in existing buildings.

Loss of electricity, for instance due to high self- and standby consumption, increase the annual power consumption and subsequently, the required storage capacity and the acquisition costs of Picea®. Therefore, losses should be reduced wherever possible.

The energy loss of Picea® itself is extremely low. The heat emerging during the transformation of energy in the electrolysis or the fuel cell is used extensively. The heat of the electrolyzes, primarily operated during summer, is exploited for the heating of water for the domestic use as there is no heating of the house required during summer. The heat of the fuel cell, primarily operated during winter, supports the heating of the house. Due to the combined usage the overall utilization ratio is very high and amounts up to 90 percent.

HPS promises a comprehensive care package to house owners including clean energy day and night, during summer and winter, even in buildings without a grid connection. But aren't the last ten to twenty percent disproportionately difficult to achieve complete energy autonomy?

Entire energy self-sufficiency requires a fail-safe and high performance. In order to attain the last 20 percent of independence, the energy storage demand increases dramatically. The costs of batteries increase with capacity. Therefore, batteries cannot provide an economically advantageous solution. Our seasonal energy storage, based on hydrogen, not only offers characteristically low specific storage costs; but with growing storage capacity the costs even increase disproportionately less as the conversion components fuel cell and electrolysis operate independently of the storage capacity and therefore remain unchanged. The combination of the energy storage and converter technologies according to their respective characteristics with the existing storage requirements in both the short- and long-term range makes energy autonomy possible.

For us, for our clients and ultimately for our whole environment, genuine independence represents a valuable/precious asset. Since day one, the development of Picea® is designed for this purpose. We are proud of having successfully developed our Picea® solution to face to this challenging task.