I had talked before about having on demand hydrogen powered electricity generators at future hydrogen vehicle gas stations to help balance out the power grid at night. I thought about it and realized there was one major energy inefficiency I had overlooked that the byproduct of combusting hydrogen in an electricity producing generator is lots of heat. Hydrogen offers 2-3 times more energy than most other common types of fuels, and hydrogen has the highest energy combustion per pound compared to other fuels. Because of this hydrogen is an extremely efficient fuel, and it also should probably be stored or piped in lower pressure than other fuels. I know someone out there is complaining right now that hydrogen is combustible and could be dangerous. All I can say is please use some common sense. Can anyone find me a tank or can of gasoline, butane, natural gas, liquid propane or any other fuel that isn’t also combustible and also dangerous? Plus, those other fuels are all toxic too. In addition to the heat, hydrogen combustion only leaves behind water and it would theoretically be safe enough to drink.
I also realized during that critical time from when the sun goes down to when people go to bed and stop using as much power there is a need for both consistent electricity and heating of apartment complexes and homes.
So what if we as part of The Green New Deal we switched over the natural gas lines to hydrogen gas lines and large residential buildings could have grid-tied green energy broilers that generate electricity through internal hydrogen combustion generators and also capture the heat produced for building climate control and heating residential water.
This doesn’t have to be a broiler or water heater. This could also be done on a smaller scale with a grid-tied power generating oven or furnace that doubles as an electricity generator. Other than maybe capturing the water byproduct for some purpose like drinking water or watering air purifying plants a system such as this would be very efficient and help stabilize a new green power grid while helping to affordably meet residential heat needs.
In a city environment that has most infrastructure it is probably easier to use existing natural gas lines to supply hydrogen fuel. In a more rural environment that has some infrastructure it is probably easier to produce hydrogen gas on site during times when green energy production exceeds gross demand and store it in reserve tanks similar to how we store propane. In a very rural or off-grid settings it is probably easier to use on site solar system to create the hydrogen fuel from water during the day with any excess solar supply and then store it onsite in a tank. For an off-grid system to work properly there must be enough excess solar during the day to exceed daily hydrogen fuel demand. Some people might also chose to refill smaller hydrogen tanks in a manner similar to how propane tanks are currently filled or exchanged.
Anyone can design a green solar system that works during the daylight hours. Having appliances that can produce heat (a basic human need) and simultaneous help supply some electricity at night makes balancing a green grid system way easier without having to overbuild as much. I’ve focused more on the need for heat. However, just as we have natural gas air conditioners we could also have hydrogen air conditioners. It a far less efficient process to create the cooling process from heat. However, a hydrogen air conditioner might have some synergy with a water heater or a pool/hot tub heater. If we are going to create that much excess heat we might as well use some of it for a productive purpose.
Chris Madsen is a writer and activist based in the great state of Hawaii. He frequently writes from the unique perspective of his Pacific home. His opinions are his own.
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