The storage and regulating the supply of naturally generated energy has always been a crucial issue. It’s always been plain that renewables could produce huge quantities of energy, but not necessarily at the time it’s required. The solution to this is hydrogen.
Hydrogen is the simplest, most abundant element in the universe. It is never naturally present as itself on Earth, it’s always bonded to other elements, like oxygen in water, and to carbon, as the energy in hydrocarbons, and the energy in carbohydrates. It can be isolated from water with electric current in a process called electrolysis. Once isolated, it’s a potent, high energy fuel, it’s literally rocket fuel, powering NASA’s rockets for the last three decades. But when it’s burned, it burns cleanly, with its byproduct being water. The energy released comes from the chemical reaction of the hydrogen recombining with oxygen - producing H2O. In fact, the crews on the Space Shuttle actually drink the waste product of the hydrogen fuel cells which provide the power to the craft’s systems.
The use of hydrogen as a fuel is another of those technologies which were cracked a long time ago and would have been perfected by now, had they had a fraction of the investment that tank armour has had, or the amounts lavished on missile guidance systems. The means of industrially isolating hydrogen from water goes back to the work of Russian physicist Dmitry Lachinov back in 1888, when Henry George was still enlivening people with his speeches.
And anyone really interested in hydrogen should read Lindsay Leveen’s work, which is a comprehensive overview of the whole subject.
And we read Kaveh Mazloomi’s paper: The Electrical Efficiency of Electrolytic Hydrogen Production
The paper says that commonly, the industrial electrolyzing process has a nominal hydrogen production efficiency of around 70%. There are certain technical issues that cause the 30% loss which are certainly within reach of solutions and that will surely succeed with some investment, and this paper provides an insight into these factors and the attempts to reduce this energy loss.
In the presence of abundance, 70% is good. And the process creates oxygen, as well, which maybe offsets a tiny bit of the cost. And if abundant oxygen is being created it could be released into the atmosphere to dilute the carbon? Does it work like that? It’s certainly a much sweeter emission, that’s for sure.
The world’s first public hydrogen filling station is in Reykjavik, Iceland, and it powers three hydrogen powered buses, puffing water vapour into the streets.
Hey, let’s have a picture of a bus, a hydrogen powered bus:
So, excess electricity in a continental Intergrid system can be diverted into electrolysis and hydrogen fuel cells created, for an energy regulator and reserve and for transport.
And very interesting recent developments from Tesla in battery technology.
Jeremy Rifkin, author also of The Hydrogen Economy, sees the vehicles of the future being electric plug-in vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, exchanging energy with the Intergrid, at times actually functioning as providers to the grid, maybe even storing energy for the grid at peak output.
The Third Industrial Revolution society he sees is of millions of people producing their own information, energy and manufacturing, millions of microfactories, using the fast emerging culture of additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, child of the WorldWideWeb.
This is also a huge factor in considerations about energy, because additive manufacturing, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing (a nice retronym that’s emerged) massively reduces the energy and resource demands of manufacturing.
We’ll use this quote again because it sounds so good to us:
When Internet communications manage green energy, every human being on earth becomes his or her own source of power, both literally and figuratively. Billions of human beings sharing their renewable energy laterally on a continental green electricity internet creates the foundation for the democratization of the global economy and a more just society.
What Jeremy Rifkin has described is irresistible and inevitable. All of this is a clear effect of the global Web, a revolution which will continue to unfold. This is very hopeful. This could be the golden, clean, democratised future of creative lateral power, power that comes from the common access to the unownable.
This is what a hydrogen producing plant looks like. This is in Greenland, a country self-sufficient in clean power; (at least until all the ice melts that's providing so much hydroelectric power.) And with spare energy, Nukissiorfiit, the national energy company, bought this plant from H2 Logic in Denmark.