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Hydrogen as an alternative energy source

Hydrogen as an alternative energy source

Alternative Energy Sources

01.03.2023

Hydrogen is the most abundant gas in the Universe, accounting for 80% of the atoms of the elements found here. Although the Earth contains much less of it, it is the third most abundant element after oxygen and silicon (15.4% of atoms), so there is certainly no shortage. However, its usefulness is reduced by the fact that elemental hydrogen is rare on Earth and must be extracted from natural gas, oil, coal or electrolysis from water for industrial use.

Hydrogen is the new "holy grail" of energy. The energy source, the fuel of the future. It is an efficient fuel that has the highest combustion energy per pound compared to other fuels in use, offering up to three times more energy for the same volume of fuel. It is also a clean burning fuel that produces no harmful byproducts.

Currently, most hydrogen is produced by a chemical process from fossil fuels. Although this is the most efficient method of production, with an efficiency of around 80%, the downside is that for every kilogram of hydrogen, 5.5 kilograms of carbon dioxide are also produced. If this waste carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, the resulting hydrogen is called 'grey'; if it is captured and stored, it is called 'blue'.

This offers production by electrolysis from water. However, the efficiency of production is significantly lower, at only 60 %, and 9 litres of water are used per kilogram of 'green' hydrogen. However, the efficiency can be increased when there is a surplus of production and energy that has no use at the time, which is used to produce 'green' hydrogen.

Thus, hydrogen production from solar energy is proposed in a system that includes a conventional photovoltaic power plant, either on the roof or on the ground, to which a storage system combining battery storage and a hydrogen tank is connected. The unused energy produced by the sun is stored partly in the battery and partly in the form of hydrogen. The hydrogen produced is not only useful for powering vehicles or for heating, but can also be reused to generate electricity when it is scarce or in an island system that is not connected to the grid.

In addition to electrolysis from water using electricity from nuclear power plants, hydrogen is also available as a by-product of waste treatment. The Japanese automaker Toyota plans to produce hydrogen from household plastic waste. This is currently not recycled in Japan, 8% ends up in landfills, 12% is exported and two thirds end up in incinerators. Although production in this way does not produce waste carbon, it is still significantly more profitable than incineration.

In the current energy crisis, hydrogen is also a boon because it erases regional differences in the availability of raw materials, since, for example, any country can obtain it by electrolysis from water, even if it is otherwise mineral-poor. Hydrogen as a chemical is always the same. It can also be added to natural gas and heated without any infrastructure modification, as current gas boilers are tested to run on natural gas enriched with up to 20% hydrogen.

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