In a remarkable feat, Tokyu Hotels has established the world’s first hydrogen-powered hotel generated solely from waste products.
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Employing hydrogen fuel cell technology by Toshiba, and working in close collaboration with local power plants in Kawasaki, the hotel derives 30% of its energy from discarded plastic, with the remaining 70% derived from food waste. This project has been established in partnership with Japan’s Ministry of Environment’s Regional Cooperation and Low-Carbon Hydrogen Technology Demonstration Project, with the hope that it will be a catalyst for a future of carbon-neutral hotels.
Welcome to the Hydrogen Hotel
Opening in June 2018, the Kawasaki King Skyfront Tokyu Rei Hotel not only opened its doors to guests but also opened the doors to a new era of sustainable tourism. Through the collection of both food and plastic waste, the hotel feeds its hydrogen fuel cell system, producing 300,000 cubic nanometers of hydrogen per year, generating an astounding 450,000 kwh of power. That is the equivalent energy required to power 82 four-person households.
Working in partnership with a nearby biogas power plant, all food waste is converted to fuel via methane fermentation. The subsequent electricity generated is then purchased by the hotel; becoming the first hotel in Japan to generate electricity via this circular food waste system.
To truly reduce its single-use plastic consumption, the Tokyu Hotel not only recycles the typical plastic bottles and cartons, but it goes as far as to collect the toothbrushes and hair combs left in guestrooms. This waste is sent to the Showa Denko plastic recycling plant, where it is converted to hydrogen and transported back to the hotel via pipelines to the installed hydrogen fuel cell system. This combination of pipeline transportation and the zero carbon emissions associated with hydrogen fuel cells has prevented approximately 200,000 kg of carbon emissions per year from the hotel.
As an additional side project to push further the establishment’s ethic of sustainability, the hotel also grows its own vegetable produce. Through the use of hydroponics and LED-sourced photosynthesis, the hotel lobby is home to a pesticide-free vegetable garden, including lettuce which is harvested each month.
The Collaborative Effort
This remarkable milestone in sustainable tourism owes its success to a foundation of collaborative efforts across the region. Having historically struggled with dense pollution, the city of Kawasaki has respawned as a capital for advanced environmental technologies in its plight to return to ecological harmony. This includes the chemical production company, Showa Denko, and the headquarters of Toshiba Energy Systems and Solutions.
Showa Denko has developed a novel manufacturing process christened “Kawasaki Plastic Recycle (KPR)” utilizing a variety of waste plastics as feedstock, including the toothbrushes and hair combs sent by Tokyu Hotels, for ammonia production, from which hydrogen fuel is derived. As a result, the Kasawaki site alone is responsible for recycling 195 tons of waste plastic each day.
Toshiba’s hydrogen fuel cell technology was also already in place, having been implemented with success in various commercial sites, including supermarkets. The H2REX generator stimulates an electrochemical reaction between the supplied hydrogen and atmospheric oxygen to produce both electricity and heat. The Tokyu Hotel also utilizes the produced heat as a means of providing hot water.
The real challenge, as explained by Showa Denko Planning Manager Shotoro Takayama, was determining how to link these two steps of the hydrogen supply chain.
Connecting a hydrogen pipeline to a hotel is an extremely rare project. We were only able to realize it by going around explaining the project to various organizations we wouldn’t normally come into contact with, like government and municipal offices, partner companies, neighborhood associations, and other stakeholders,”
Showa Denko Planning Manager Shotoro Takayama
After a staggering two years of discussions, the final solution resulted in a high-volume pipeline, enabling a stable supply of hydrogen with the capability of responding to the characteristic fluctuations in energy demand from the hotel.
The Wider Impact of the Hydrogen Hotel
As mentioned previously, the hydrogen hotel concept was established as part of a wider hydrogen development project led by Japan’s Ministry of Environment’s Regional Cooperation.
“Our focus is to create a sustainable society for our employees, guests and surrounding community. The Kawasaki hotel is at the forefront of ethical innovation and we hope to see more hotels follow,” states Noriyuki Mizutani, general manager of the Kawasaki King Skyfront Tokyu Rei Hotel, emphasizing the significance that this establishment plays in demonstrating the feasibility of renewable energy generation and waste management.
According to Toshiba Energy, the unique nature of the hotel has also captured the interest of guests, reporting that their stay has left them with greater environmental awareness.
However, Takayama of Showa Denko is adamant that the impact will extend beyond the hotel sector:
“We think we need to promote this project in a variety of channels as a model case for a hydrogen society that could solve this kind of problem. We want to go from promoting the project one-on-one to promoting it to the public at large, showing the world that this is one way to solve the plastics problem. “
When considering the polluted past that Kasawaki has battled against, the significance of this development heightens and hopefully resonates the clear message to similar communities that a cleaner future is indeed possible.
References and Further Reading
Globtrender. 2021. Tokyu Hotels has Unveiled the World’s First Hydrogen hotel in Japan. [online] Globtrender. Available at: https://globetrender.com/2021/06/19/tokyu-hotels-first-hydrogen-hotel-japan/ (Accessed 1 July 2021)
Showa Denko. N.d. About Us. [onine] Showa Denko. Available at: https://www.sdk.co.jp/english/about.html (Accessed 1 July 2021)
Toshiba. 2020. Welcome to the World’s First “Hydrogen Hotel: Energy From Waste Plastics Recycling. [online] Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions Corporation. Available at: https://www.global.toshiba/ww/top.html (Accessed on 1 July 2021)
Toshiba. N.d. Pure Hydrogen Fuel Cell System H2REX. [online] Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions Corporation. Available at: https://www.toshiba-energy.com/en/hydrogen/product/fuel-cell.htm (Accessed on 1 July 2021)