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Fuel Cells

Renewable Electrolysis System Development

Company Name: Proton OnSite
Program Office: Fuel Cells
Location: Wallingford, CT
Email: Steve Szymanski, Director of Business Development;
Award Amount: $200,000
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Active
Participating Lab(s): National Renewable Energy Laboratory


Renewable hydrogen generation is critical for utilizing hydrogen fuel cells to de-carbonize transportation and electricity systems. Hydrogen can serve as a medium for capturing excess renewable energy generation, is capable of fueling vehicles, and can serve as an intermediate for many industrial processes. Hydrogen production, via low temperature electrolysis, is a flexible, clean energy carrying intermediate that enables fast ramp and de-ramp rates as dense solar, wind and storage systems become a larger percentage of the electricity mix.

Polymer exchange membrane electrolysis is one of the few technologies that can produce hydrogen with zero carbon emissions at a scale of hundreds of megawatts in the near term. In 2015, Proton OnSite introduced a new electrolyzer platform, the world's first such megawatt electrolyzer with application in the global energy storage market.

Through the SBV Pilot, the company will work with National Renewable Energy Laboratory staff and facilities on developing a design basis for using advanced power converter components, such as wide band gap,  and architectures, including AC/DC and DC/DC, that are optimized for renewable electricity sources. Utilizing the lab's hardware validation capabilities to develop and design an advanced power converter could contribute to reducing the capital costs of such an integrated system.


Fuel cells currently rely on precious metal-based catalysts to function. Hydrogen production, via Proton low-temperature exchange membrane electrolysis, is uniquely positioned to cleanly and cheaply interconnect with multiple variable power generation inputs, while also servicing society's other energy demands including grid, industrial, and transportation sectors. Developing a more efficient electrolyzer through lower power conversion losses and improved input and output voltage matching, along with other advances, can lower capital costs for the system. Advances from this project can also shed light on the broader challenge of integrating variable renewable energy systems onto the grid to provide reliable power to businesses and homes.


Smart storage systems help commercial customers reduce their electric bills by storing energy from the grid or from solar when energy is cheap, then using that stored energy when demand and prices are high. The ability to use hydrogen fuel in transportation adds even more potential value to such hydrogen systems.

Generating clean hydrogen fuel could displace gasoline and other fossil fuel use, leading to significant reductions in climate-altering emissions as well as particulate matter and other air pollutants.

Reducing oil use is a national security benefit to the United States. Fuel efficiency and alternative fuels insulate businesses and consumers from the global oil market and volatile price spikes.

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