Instructables

Hydrogen Production for Energy Independence

video Hydrogen Production for Energy Independence
Several years ago I submitted an idea to NASA's Create the Future Contest.  The idea I had addressed the issue that there was not a national infrastructure for providing refueling stations for the fuelcell cars that Honda's Clarity and GM's Equinox needed.  Without such an infrastructure, people would not want to buy a car that could not be refueled while crossing the country.  I suggested that Honda and GM put solar panels on the roof of each dealership and use the electricity produced to produce hydrogen.  The compressed hydrogen could be stored in tanks and be used to refuel fuelcell cars from a self-service pumps.  This would mean that any owner of such a car could count on going to any Honda or GM dealership and be able to refuel.  After the dealer has recovered the capital costs of installation, essentially free hydrogen could be sold at comparable gasoline prices.  Both the car owner and the dealer would benefit and so would the environment.  An easy follow-on to this is that other would start producing hydrogen as well. 

I don't have a fuelcell car but I do have a barn and chicken coop that is not connected to the grid.  I uses a few solar panels and a deep cycle battery to at least provide some lighting using LED lights.  To do more, I would have to buy additional batteries which are expensive and heavy.  My idea for this project is to use the prize money to set up an end-to-end system where I would use solar and wind to produce electricity and use this electricity to produce hydrogen.  The hydrogen would be compressed and stored in tanks.  Then, when I need electricity, hydrogen would be passed through a fuelcell which would be tapped to power the barn and chicken coop.

Such systems already exist but on a very large scale.  I want to scale such a system down to meet a much smaller purpose.  I would use the prize money to buy commercial equipment and install the system on my farm.  The benefit to me is obvious but the Instructables community would benefit by seeing what it takes to put together such a system.  I would post on Instructables.com a complete description of the installation along with a description of what to buy and where to buy it.  I would also present updates on lessons learned.  Since I own this farm and have the freedom and room to experiment, I would offer this installation as a test bed for further modifications.  I would welcome visitors to examine the system.  One additional possibility is for me to push dynamic performance data to my website (http://www.datasink.com) so the public can observe the changes in power output. 

I have posted a number of instructables on instructables.com , some of which have been marked as 'Featured':

A simple watering sytem for a chicken brooder
http://www.instructables.com/id/A-simple-watering-system-for-a-chicken-brooder/

Large Tractor Coop (featured)
http://www.instructables.com/id/Large-Tractor-Coop/

Redirect water from a raingutter to a rain barrel
http://www.instructables.com/id/Redirect-water-from-a-raingutter-to-a-rain-barrel/

How to mount a solar panel
http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-mount-a-solar-panel/

Tandem Rain Barrels (featured)
http://www.instructables.com/id/Tandem-Rain-Barrels/

Lenz2 wind turbine (featured)
http://www.instructables.com/id/Lenz2-wind-turbine/

Cardboard Savonius turbine (featured)
http://www.instructables.com/id/Cardboard-Savonius-turbine/


My background

I am currently retired after 13 years of university teaching and 20
years as a software engineer in Lockheed Martin's Advanced Technology
Labs.  I now operate a 10 acre farm in Indiana where I raise garden
produce, chickens, goats, and have a vineyard.  I have plenty of room
to experiment with green energy projects.  Many of my projects on
instructables.com have been hosted on this farm.

My date of birth is March 1, 1941.
HarveyH441 year ago
How much energy is used, to compress the Hydrogen for storage and future use. Is there some safety shutoff for when the Hydrogen tanks are fully pressurized? What are you doing with the Oxygen, which is also produced? Why buy a fuel cell car, if the fuel costs the same as gasoline?

I do understand the efficiency and economy aren't really an issue, since water is free, as is sunlight and wind, just sort of bothers me. The idea of a pressurized tank is a little scare, not to mention highly reactive and volatile gas, the Oxygen.
rhackenb (author)  HarveyH441 year ago
You have a lot of good questions.

How much energy is used to pressurize the hydrogen? I don't have an answer to that but I'm sure the experts do. That will be part of my experiment. For my purposes, it only has to be enough to supply electricity to my barn and chicken coop. I will be monitoring this.

Of course there will be a safety shutoff on the pressure tank. I think the compressor portion of the unit will not work above a certain pressure.

I will throw away the oxygen which will dissipate into the air.

Hydrogen is very corrosive and must be stored in specially lined tanks.

I said that the dealer could charge the same as the cost of gasoline. This a marketing issue, not a technical one. You would have to give them an economic incentive to even do this. On the other hand, you and I could make our own and sell it for less at a profit.
HarveyH441 year ago
How much energy is used, to compress the Hydrogen for storage and future use. Is there some safety shutoff for when the Hydrogen tanks are fully pressurized? What are you doing with the Oxygen, which is also produced? Why buy a fuel cell car, if the fuel costs the same as gasoline?

I do understand the efficiency and economy aren't really an issue, since water is free, as is sunlight and wind, just sort of bothers me. The idea of a pressurized tank is a little scare, not to mention highly reactive and volatile gas, the Oxygen.
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