We understand that hydrogen can be used as power, since we know that there are hydrogen cars out there and hydrogen power plants. But how exactly is electricity used in this equation, you ask?
Well, electrolysis is the process of splitting water into it’s elements, hydrogen and oxygen, by passing electric current through the water.
So we have the electricity from our [alternate] energy capturing device (ie. wind turbine, solar panel, submerged CETO, etc.), and we understand that if we do not immediately use the electricity it has to go somewhere, and if not into a battery then it usually goes right back into the ground or dissipated into heat… or used to perform some type of work on an element or compound so that that new compound that is formed as a result of the work done to the element can be used as fuel.
You see, the storage of fuel is much easier than the storage of electricity. In fact, it is common that we think of them as one and the same thing. Lead Acid car batteries store electricity. Lead Acid is the fuel, the compound. Lithium, Nickel Cadmium… all fuel.
The challenge then is to find a compound or element that is plentiful on earth, that is high in energy density, and can be stored in its highest energy state very easily. I’ve discussed some of the difficulties associated with storing Hydrogen here, but there are a lot of advancements in the process. And, when we are not having to transport hydrogen, that is, we have a building that requires power, we don’t really need to worry about reducing the size of the hydrogen storage device as much as we would had we wanted to put it into a car.
A sad fact about this method right now is that usually the electricity energy used to perform electrolysis is much more than the energy actually produced by the hydrogen, so this process hasn’t become widely adopted… YET!
Research is our friend, and no doubt will find solutions to this problem. Have you heard of any?
The MYRTE project is to test “full-scale” the coupling of a solar power plant to a hydrogen energy storage system. This project aims at showcasing the proprietary technology developed through support from the H2E program by OSEO.Combining the solar power production with hydrogen, MYRTE adds value to a plentiful local resource, the sun, and solves the constraint of intermittence related to the injection of fluctuating renewable energy in the relatively weak electricity island network.
Denis Kuznetsov talks about a few other studies here.