To better understand hydrogen’s benefits, we can first review some of the present concerns with the structure of the existing energy economy.
Four realities suggest that the current energy economy is not sustainable:
Hydrogen has three basic benefits that address these concerns.
The Hydrogen Energy Center is building on the benefits of hydrogen to realize a sustainable energy economy.
When considering the production process, the cost of electricity required for the electrolysis process is one of the barriers to sustainable energy. Presently Hydrogen Energy Center is researching wind, solar, tidal and hydro as renewable energy sources. Wind generators have been significantly improved in recent years and can produce electricity for $.04 per kWh which is competitive with conventional means of generating electricity. If the site has adequate wind then there is substantial potential for a hydrogen production facility. Small scale hydro holds promise for sites where local production and use are determining factors. Tidal power is gathering momentum and demonstration projects have been successful. Hydrogen Energy Center is working with inventors to develop plans for a long term tidal electrical generation demonstration project in New England. Improvements with solar arrays of photovoltaic cells continue to lower the cost of producing electricity. Given the right climate and set of circumstances solar is a viable solution.
Besides electrolysis the production of hydrogen has been accomplished by a catalytic reaction of waste aluminum. The end products are hydrogen, and alumina which can be reused to make aluminum. Hydrogen Energy Center is in dialogue with the Canadian company that holds the patent.
Aside from the production of hydrogen, the everyday use and acceptance of hydrogen must be careful introduced. Hydrogen today is being used to power commercial buses both by internal combustion engines burning a combination of hydrogen and other fuels and solely by hydrogen used in fuel cells. Hydrogen is used in many commercial applications from welding metal to dying fabrics to making electronics, plastics and fertilizers. When a renewable economically viable production process of hydrogen can be achieved the advantages will be spread out to many industries. Some of the proving grounds for various production methods can be locally developed to provide hydrogen for these industries.
Renewable energy sources are often limited for commercial use due to their intermittent availability. Sometimes the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine, so hydrogen can be the critical link used as a storage medium to supply power during these periods. Hydrogen can be used as a mobile source of power for transportation by being compressed and stored in small tanks for applications similar to gasoline or propane.
With increasing use of hydrogen and technical advances, the costs of production, distribution and product manufacturing will becoming increasing affordable. By continuing to build partnerships between business, government , universities and non-profit organizations hydrogen will be the foundation of a sustainable energy economy.