Hydrogen in horticulture

Waterstof in tuinbouw

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Expectations for hydrogen are high. In the Netherlands, Europe, and on a global scale, solutions and future possibilities are being explored. The use of hydrogen in horticulture offers promising opportunities to make the sector more sustainable, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and lower greenhouse gas emissions.  

How is hydrogen actually produced?

Hydrogen can be produced in various ways, but the two most common methods are steam reforming of natural gas and electrolysis of water. Steam reforming of natural gas generates CO2 as a byproduct during production, impacting sustainability.

The second common method, water electrolysis, comes from renewable sources such as water. This method uses electricity to split water (H2O) into hydrogen gas (H2) and oxygen gas (O2). Producing hydrogen without CO2 emissions is possible through this process, known as green hydrogen. 

Making horticulture more sustainable

Making horticulture more sustainable, has its limitations: geothermal capacity, electricity grid capacity, or the availability of biomass. Hydrogen, on the other hand, can be effectively and flexibly integrated into the horticulture. The horticulture sector can play a role in the deployment of hydrogen in the Netherlands and benefit on the opportunities it brings. 

How can hydrogen be applied in the horticulture sector?

Research from Glastuinbouw Nederland reveals that hydrogen can complement existing sources of sustainable energy in horticulture. Hydrogen can play a significant role in various ways within the sector.

1. Energy storage

Hydrogen can serve as an efficient form of energy storage. In horticulture, energy demand often fluctuates based on factors such as heating or lighting needs.

Hydrogen can be produced from excess electricity during periods of low demand and later be used to generate electricity and heat when demand is high. This allows better utilization of renewable energy sources like solar and wind, leading to a more stable energy supply.

2. Hydrogen-fueled CHPs

Current combined heat and power (CHP) systems based on gas engines are not as suitable for hydrogen. Therefore, it's more interesting to explore CHPs powered by 100% hydrogen. The first engines for this purpose are already entering the market. Hydrogen can be used as fuel, reacting with oxygen to generate electricity and heat. This electricity can then be used for various applications, including lighting, ventilation, and irrigation.

3. Sustainable transport

Hydrogen can also play a role in transporting products and raw materials within the horticulture sector. For instance, hydrogen-powered trucks can transport goods to and from greenhouses, reducing the use of fossil fuels and limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

What challenges does hydrogen bring?

However, challenges remain in terms of production, distribution, storage, and costs. Despite these challenges, large-scale hydrogen applications in the Netherlands are already well underway. By mid-2022, the total number of hydrogen projects in the Netherlands reached 165, representing a growth of over 25% compared to 2021. These developments indicate that (green) hydrogen can be seen as a promising option for the future sustainability of the horticulture sector.

Sustainability of the entire supply chain

In conclusion, hydrogen can be an interesting option for the horticulture sector. To make such improvements in sustainability, initiatives like Horti Footprint Cirlce are worth joining. Horti Footprint Circle aims to work collaboratively towards a carbon-neutral horticulture sector by 2030. The era of only discussing footprints, CO2 compensation, and climate-neutral production is over. It's time for not only growers but the entire chain to take action.

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