The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in partnership with Xcel Energy, has launched a wind-to-hydrogen (Wind2H2) demonstration project at the National Wind Technology Center in Boulder, Colorado.
Researchers hope to improve the efficiency of producing hydrogen from renewable resources in quantities large enough and at costs low enough to compete with traditional energy sources such as coal, oil, and natural gas.
The Wind2H2 project links two wind turbines to three electrolyzers, which pass the wind-generated electricity through water to split it into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is compressed and stored for later use to generate electricity from an internal combustion engine or a fuel cell. The technology helps address the variable nature of wind power by providing a ready source of electricity to feed into the grid when there isn’t enough wind or when electricity demand is high.
The hydrogen the project produces can also power vehicles. From December 2008 through September 2009, NREL operated a Mercedes Benz F-Cell fuel cell vehicle. Hydrogen from wind and solar power were compressed to high pressure to fill the vehicle's 1.8-kg storage tank. The vehicle travels around 110 miles between refueling.
NREL researchers hope to demonstrate how wind-to-hydrogen systems can work and to find ways to reduce costs and make such systems economically viable.
Although hydrogen is used as a fuel elsewhere, most hydrogen is "reformed" from natural gas or other fossil fuels by stripping out the hydrogen atoms. This process creates greenhouse gas emissions and eliminates some environmental benefits. Hydrogen is also produced through electrolysis using sources of electricity, such as fossil fuels, that generate air emissions.
The Wind2H2 project allows researchers to explore how to make hydrogen without producing greenhouse gases or other harmful byproducts.
Photo courtesy of Vaxomatic.
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