The concept of hydrogen cells has been floated consistently in the last decade as an alternative energy concept for vehicles. But now as more development has gone into energy storage for renewables grids, designs for a method of storing energy using hydrogen cells has also begun to appear.
Again, the concept is the same as with thermal, or battery storage. The idea is to ‘charge’ a storage medium when power from renewables is plentiful, and then as the demand on the grid starts to exceed what wind and waves can produce, the store gradually releases energy.
But why choose hydrogen, and why is it a more energy efficient system?
How Hydrogen Energy Storage Works
The need for energy storage comes from having a power grid that is theoretically mostly charged by renewables. Wind, wave and solar power are a nice way to phase out fossil fuels, but they lack consistent power output. Sometimes the system won’t be holding enough charge to keep it going and prevent power cuts, because the system we are used to, generating nuclear power or fossil fuel power, is always-on and always dumping power into the grid.
A hydrogen cell is just one of the ways energy can be stored when production from renewables is at its peak. At certain points the grid will be flooded with power, enough that there’s a surplus. At this point the energy stores go online, absorbing power like batteries (indeed some methods are just that, giant batteries). Once the power surplus drops below a certain level, these stores can bleed their charge back into the system for a constant flow, as we’re used to.
Hydrogen energy cells are the product of a phenomena called electrolysis, a very, very old idea that harks back to the earliest days of using electricity in chemistry. In the late 1700’s scientists begun to unknowingly practice electrolysis – using it to create chemical reactions where previously they would be sluggish, or even non existent. It’s precisely in this way that hydrogen cells work – a small amount of power causes an electrically motivated chemical change in water that leaves you with gaseous oxygen and hydrogen gas. The oxygen can be saved, or simply released. The hydrogen is now fuel.
Breaking down H20, i.e. water, into its components means you now have a pressurized container full of flammable hydrogen, which can now be burned as a fuel, or re-oxidised, and the only waste product is just more water. This is where the electrolysis creates a fuel cell, and the fuel created with a small amount of power can be burned to make power again. The clever bit is that if the power you used in the first place to turn the hydrogen into a fuel comes from a wind turbine, it means the entire process doesn’t create more carbon dioxide. Of course, there will be emissions involved in building and maintaining these systems, and that’s a fair criticism of green energy as a whole, but once the system is up and running then theoretically it’s a totally emission-free one.
Will I Be Able To Use Hydrogen?
As always, getting these technologies from out of the lab and into your daily life is tricky. Hydrogen cars are already being pushed for our rush to renewable energy by 2030-2050, and the power grid systems we see around us are tentatively being reviewed for early upgrades.But consumers and business owners want to transform their premises and their homes into green energy stores too. Our company is dedicated to finding ways to get tech like hydrogen into your life, or powering your business, as soon as we can. Feel free to contact us above, and we should be able to answer your questions about these technologies.