Initial Situation

The use of green, climate-neutral hydrogen will make a significant contribution to the energy transition and the achievement of national and European climate goals in the coming years. The German government supports a national hydrogen strategy that includes funding for numerous initiatives and a hydrogen roadmap has also been presented for the state of Baden-Württemberg. Due to its production independent of fossil fuels, green hydrogen offers the chance to reduce the need for gas and oil imports, thereby making parts of the energy industry more autonomous at both the national and regional levels.

To support the Heilbronn-Franken region in developing a hydrogen economy, the project “H2-Innovationslabor” was carried out. Initial outcomes of the project indicate that alongside establishing a supply infrastructure, testing and deploying hydrogen technologies in various fields within Heilbronn-Franken present a promising area for action in the years ahead. Initial use cases must help accumulate experience in handling H2 and other innovative, ecologically sustainable technologies. Specific use cases suitable for implementation in the region were identified and conceptually discussed with potential implementation partners and external hydrogen experts during workshops. Notably, sustainable energy management in data centers exemplified by the KI Heilbronn Innovation Park and sustainable asphalt mixing plants emerged as compelling use cases offering measurable benefits to the Heilbronn-Franken region and holding significant research-relevant innovation potential.

These use cases are now further explored and elaborated upon as a basis for future implementation, ensuring secure and reliable testing and sustained operations. Despite the overall focus on hydrogen technologies, alternative technologies suitable for sustainable operation for the mentioned use cases must also be explored to ascertain whether hydrogen is the most suitable energy carrier. The H2 Innovation Lab will continue as an interdisciplinary center of excellence for hydrogen research to support the Heilbronn-Franken region in developing a hydrogen economy.

Project Aim

The project identifies existing stakeholders, develops an H2 ecosystem model, and formulates recommendations for the Heilbronn-Franken region. Initial results have exemplified promising possibilities for the use of hydrogen technologies in various application areas. The project aims to focus on the areas of sustainable energy management in data centers and a sustainable asphalt mixing plant as two subprojects.

Data Center: The central aim of the subproject is to examine potential sustainable energy systems and concepts for data centers, using the AI Park in Heilbronn as an example. Based on an analysis of existing data centers and their requirements, in collaboration with data center operators, and a detailed examination of innovative technologies and their integration possibilities within intelligent energy systems, future-oriented approaches are identified. These approaches are systematically and tool-based evaluated, particularly concerning their suitability for the AI Park Heilbronn.

Asphalt mixing plant: Within the framework of this subproject, a feasibility study is conducted for the transition to a hydrogen-based operation of asphalt mixing plants, using the example of HAM in Heilbronn. The focus is on technological solutions that address economic, environmental, and social sustainability, supply concepts, digital optimizations, and coupling possibilities with other existing installations such as photovoltaic systems. This ensures that the results can be applied to other asphalt mixing plants and similar burner technologies suitable for conversion to H2 operation.


Data Center: Initially, the problem space is delineated and structured. Key stakeholders are identified and analyzed through interviews to understand their fundamental requirements and technological specifics. The second phase involves conducting a feasibility analysis, focusing on technological feasibility, business considerations, social aspects, legal and safety regulations, and environmental sustainability. The third phase validates the concepts derived from the feasibility study through a tool-based simulation, aiming to assess and verify different energy management strategies. In the fourth phase, the results of the feasibility study and simulation are evaluated and tailored specifically for the AI Innovation Park, considering additional systems such as Smart Grid applications and logistical challenges. Finally, the last step establishes an initial decision-making framework and guideline for planning and optimizing energy needs and associated emissions in data centers, with a focus on technical, business, ecological, and social considerations.

Asphalt mixing plant: The first work package includes evaluating the ecological and social sustainability potentials of transitioning asphalt mixing plants to operate with H2. Additionally, relevant stakeholders for a transition scenario will be identified, and their requirements for implementing a sustainable asphalt mixing plant will be systematically assessed. In the second work package, a technological and logistical examination will take place to analyze the necessary technical conditions for implementing the described scenario. Logistic considerations will explore different approaches to hydrogen procurement and delivery. The third work package will focus on assessing the technological and logistical concepts in terms of economic viability. Subsequently, the fourth work package will integrate the previous approaches into an overarching concept, considering connections to other applications such as utilizing waste heat or integrating additional H2 applications like fuel cell vehicles for asphalt transport. This phase will also explore approaches for intelligent digital systems to optimize and control energy flows. In the fifth work package, approaches for transferring the developed concept to other asphalt mixing plants and industries with process heat requirements will be developed.


Data Center: The integration of green hydrogen for data centers is pivotal in comprehensive energy concepts, serving as both a sustainable energy source for power generators and a flexible energy storage solution. Hydrogen offers transportability benefits while enhancing energy availability and renewable energy utilization. While solutions for intelligent and sustainable energy systems in infrastructures like data centers are limited, the emergence of hydrogen technologies presents promising opportunities. Evaluation and conceptualization of these components are essential for future implementation. The AI Innovation Park in Heilbronn provides an ideal environment for integrating such holistic energy concepts and leading in sustainability among European data centers. Its proximity to research facilities facilitates the evaluation and testing of innovative energy systems. This way, the project provides valuable insights applicable to new and existing data centers as well as comparable infrastructures, with a flexible simulation tool for analyzing potential pathways.

Asphalt mixing plant: The potential for reducing emissions is not limited to the two use cases, other industrial processes such as iron ore processing and agglomeration or cement production also use burner systems powered by fossil fuels. In addition to making a positive contribution to climate protection, a switch from fossil fuels to hydrogen is likely to contribute to improving air quality and reducing the delivery traffic associated with lignite supply. Many options for burner operation are possible due to the direct connection to the existing gas network around the nearby coal-fired power plant operated by EnBW, which is scheduled to switch to natural gas operation in a few years. Further potentially interesting options for H2 supply arise from the nearby Heilbronn harbor and the network connection point of the SuedLink route in Großgartach, where green hydrogen could be produced.

Project Partners

  • Technische Universität München
  • Fraunhofer IAO
  • Hochschule Heilbronn
  • Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg Heilbronn
  • Wirtschaftsförderung Raum Heilbronn

Additional Information


Prof. Dr. Helmut Krcmar

Timo Böttcher, Dr. rer. nat.

Kim Krüger, M. Sc.