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Is hydrogen the technology of the future?

Hydrogen, renewables, pros and cons, CO2, storage, power, green electricity, battery, climate change, nuclear

Fuel cells (and perhaps other technologies which use hydrogen) fill certain niches in which batteries cannot compete favorably and the opposite is also true.

When I first realized that the world is transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy, I fell in love with hydrogen technologies.

Splitting the most naturally abundant compound in the world, H2O, would be the ideal thing to fuel the future. However, there are really dangerous details to how this water must be split and the energy requirement is quite ridiculous.

What do the experts say?

The hydrogen fuel prospects are inherently limited because it takes too much energy (=cost) to make and distribute pure hydrogen (for fuel cell use).

Hydrogen is not all that environmentally friendly either if it is made from methane (making carbon dioxide) or made by electrolysis of water using electricity from coal-fired or gas-fired power plants (making carbon dioxide and other pollutants).

Hybrid arrangement

Fuel cells (and perhaps other technologies which use hydrogen) fill certain niches in which batteries cannot compete favorably and the opposite is also true.

Argonne laboratories has demonstrated that a transit vehicle powered by a hybrid arrangement of a fuel cell power-plant and batteries has a lower cost of ownership/operation compared to a battery-only vehicle.

This arrangement is called a “fuel cell range extender”.

All of the developers, hydrogen producers, bio-fuel producers, battery developers, etc. are racing as fast as they can to expand their acceptability to the markets. Hopefully we are nearing a time when each sector does not feel so threatened by the others or insist that it has THE answer.

What else is going on in the Hydrogen world?

Even with Nuclear

Nuclear power actually has a unique synergy with hydrogen production. It turns out you can run a solid oxide fuel cell reversibly, using heat and electrons to produce hydrogen. Solid oxide electrolyzers! http://www1.eere.energy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/pdfs/iid1_milliken.pdf We’ll see what happens.

Niche

“The future’s not ours to see.” Hydrogen based technologies may not be dominating energy technology in 30 or 50 years, they may find certain niche market. It still holds potentials and has technical barrier to overcome.

Related

Have you seen this?

Renewable Energy Storage Systems (dossier)

Pros & Cons of (renewable) energy sources (dossier)

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