The Hydrogen Economy: A Carbon free future beyond renewables

Tuesday, June 20, 2017 10:49 am EDT


Eddie Temistokle, Toshiba America, Inc.


Despite the fact that hydrogen ranks as the cleanest fuel possible—as a source of electricity its only byproducts are water and heat—its use as a fuel for electricity generation remains nominal. This is because hydrogen’s power has been difficult to leverage: it has the highest amount of energy per weight, but the least amount of energy by volume. Moreover, 95% of the hydrogen produced in the US, which is used almost exclusively for industrial purposes, comes from natural gas, and a large portion gets transported in trucks.

So the current system of extraction and transport is rife with complexities, costs and carbon emissions. A more practical means to leverage hydrogen for energy usage would be to generate it on-site, which allows for a more finely tuned extraction process and eliminates transportation costs and related environmental emissions. While hydrogen can be generated on-site using another fuel source such as natural gas, a cleaner, more efficient method of extraction is electrolysis. Electrolysis—which involves running a direct current of electricity through water to break apart the H2O bond and release the hydrogen—results in no emissions, is scalable, and, when coupled with a fuel cell system, can be fully self-sustaining.

Toshiba has developed hydrogen extraction systems that leverage renewable energy to create hydrogen at 30% greater efficiencies than previous solutions. This extraction method is part of Toshiba’s H2One system, which combines all aspects of on-site hydrogen production from extraction to storage to generation. To store the hydrogen the company uses a metal hydride system, which absorbs hydrogen like in a sponge. Moreover, Toshiba is taking storage a step further as it develops its large capacity hydrogen energy storage system, a five megawatt solution that will propel hydrogen into campus and community-scale power. Already, hydrogen can provide buildings, campuses, and even communities with a clean, efficient, and infinite power solution. In the long run, these systems represent another step toward the potential disruption of the century-old power plant and grid system.

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