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31/03/2008

Radical NEW gas alternative for energy

By Darshan Goswami, M.S., P.E.


Hydrogen, produced from tap water, could become the forever fuel of the future, generating power for homes, industry, and cars.

A new day is dawning for a revolutionary way to generate electric power from renewable energy sources. Imagine a future where the electrical power needed to run your computer, TV and DVD is generated from a small appliance about the size of a dishwasher located in your home. Envision generating electricity without combustion, and producing heat and pure drinking water as by-products.

Imagine being able to drive your car more than 500 miles between fill-ups. The car you drive could become a “power station on wheels” producing about 30 to 50 kilowatts of electricity. At work the parked car in the parking lot could be making money for you by supplying energy to the power grid during peak hours. The same fuel cells in the car parked in your garage could provide power for your home use.

In the new age of hydrogen, each individual could become the producer as well as the consumer of energy. Automobile, oil, and utility companies are spending billions to make this dream come true.

Renewable energy sourse

Hydrogen is “a renewable, versatile, simple sustainable domestic energy” and there is no danger of running out of hydrogen because it is the most abundant element in the universe. Hydrogen can be produced through a thermal, electrolytic, or photolytic process from fossil fuels, biomass, or water. Renewable and nuclear systems can produce hydrogen from water using a thermal or electrolytic process. People can even produce it in their homes with relatively simple apparatus.

The Hydrogen Economy is the term used to mark the shift from fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas to hydrogen. The vision of a Hydrogen Economy is one of an unlimited source of fuel that would be used to generate energy without releasing carbon and other pollutants into the air.

Hydrogen has the potential to do for the energy revolution what the computer and the Internet have done for the information revolution. Fuel cells are considered the “microchip of the hydrogen age,” the key to abundant energy from secure, renewable resources. Ultimately, fuel cells supplying homes, businesses, and industries could be linked to a national power grid allowing surplus power at one location to be transferred to areas experiencing power shortages.

Hydrocarbon economy

Some cities, such as Chicago and Vancouver, already have buses powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Ford, GM, BMW, Toyota, and Honda have prototype cars powered by hydrogen. Ford chairman William Clay Ford Jr. has declared that the fuel cell will “finally end the 100-year reign of the internal-combustion engine.” Such efforts are leading the world toward the “Hydrogen Economy.”

The present fossil fuel economy has created significant environmental problems worldwide. The Hydrogen Economy promises to eliminate all of the problems created by the fossil fuel economy. The advantages of the Hydrogen Economy include greater fuel efficiency, elimination of pollution caused by fossil fuels, elimination of greenhouse gases, and elimination of economic dependence on Middle East oil reserves.

Good for developing countries

The Hydrogen Economy could produce total decentralization of the global energy market controlled by giant oil companies and utilities, and result in vast redistribution of wealth and power. In a Hydrogen Economy utility companies will become obsolete.

“World Hydrogen Energy Roadmap” must be developed to address hydrogen production, delivery and transportation, storage, conversion, public-private partnerships, research, codes and standards, testing, public education, and end use products. This effort must include government, industry, universities, and research laboratories.

Government subsidies and tax incentives could be used to encourage put the Hydrogen Economy on a fast track. The goal of the program should be to develop technologies to safely produce, store and transport hydrogen from water, nature’s abundant and virtually free source of hydrogen.

The ultimate goal is to use the renewable energy of the sun to split water into its basic components of oxygen and hydrogen.

About the Author: Darshan Goswami has over 35 years of experience in the energy field. Until recently, he was the Chief of Energy Forecasting and Renewable Energy at the Rural Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, DC. Earlier, he worked for 30 years at Duquesne Light, an electric utility company in Pittsburgh, PA.

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