A key approach to large renewable energy sources (RES) power management is based on implementing storage technologies, including batteries, power-to-hydrogen (P2H), pumped-hydro, and compressed air energy storage. Power-to-hydrogen presents specific advantages in terms of suitability for large-scale and long-term energy storage as well as capability to decarbonize a wide range of end-use sectors, e.g., including both power generation and mobility.

This work applies a multi-nodal model for the hourly simulation of the energy system at a nation scale, integrating the power, transport, and natural gas sectors. Three main infrastructures are considered: (i) the power grid, characterized by instantaneous supply-demand balance and featuring a variety of storage options; (ii) the natural gas network, which can host a variable hydrogen content, supplying NG-H2 blends to the final consumers; (iii) the hydrogen production, storage, and re-electrification facilities. The aim of the work is to assess the role that can be played by gas turbine-based combined cycles in the future high-RES electric grid. Combined cycles (GTCCs) would exploit hydrogen generated by P2H implementation at large scale, transported through the natural gas infrastructure at increasingly admixed fractions, thus closing the power-to-power (P2P) conversion of excess renewables and becoming a strategic asset for future grid balancing applications.

A long-term scenario of the Italian energy system is analyzed, involving a massive increase of intermittent RES power generation capacity and a significant introduction of low-emission vehicles based on electric drivetrains (pure-battery or fuel-cell). The analysis highlights the role of hydrogen as clean energy vector, not only for specific use in new applications like fuel cell vehicles and stationary fuel cells, but also for substitution of fossil fuels in conventional combustion devices. The study also explores the option of repowering the combined cycles at current sites and evaluates the effect of inter-zonal limits on power and hydrogen exchange. Moreover, results include the evaluation of the required hydrogen storage size, distributed at regional scale or in correspondence of the power plant sites. Results show that when extra hydrogen generated by P2H is fed to GTCCs, up to 17–24% H2 use is achieved, reaching up to 70–100% in southern regions, with a parallel reduction in fossil NG input and CO2 emissions of the GTCC plants.

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