A Better Way

A much better way to produce and distribute hydrogen would be to generate cheap electricity from non-depletable renewable sources or nuclear power and then transmit that electricity to where the hydrogen would be both produced and dispensed, which would be at the filling stations where electrolyzers would split water into hydrogen and oxygen.   Electrolysis efficiencies of 65% are common and, using catalysts, efficiencies of more than 80% are possible.  (There is already such a hydrogen filing station operating in Reykjavik, Iceland, powered by electricity generated from geothermal energy.)  Using this filling-station approach, instead of using expensive pipelines or pressurized tankers to carry the hydrogen from large centralized hydrogen plants to the filling stations, the only infrastructure that would be needed would be some electric wires and electrolyzers and storage facilities that would be located at the filling station.  A fuel cell combines hydrogen with oxygen to produce electricity and water – the electrolyzers consumes electricity to split the water into hydrogen and oxygen.  Because they do exactly the reverse, the amount of water consumed by the electrolyzers should equal that water that will be produced by the fuel cells in those vehicles being supplied by the station.        

Gulf Stream Turbines Can Produce Low-Cost Hydrogen

            According to David K. Garmon, the assistant secretary of the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, hydrogen from wind is competitive with gasoline when wind power costs three cents a kilowatt-hour. (This statement was undoubtedly made when gasoline was less than $2 per gallon.)  Wind turbines must be located where there are consistent winds for them to have high enough capacity factors for such costs to be possible, and the number of those sites is very limited.  Because the Gulf Stream Current does flow steadily, the Gulf Stream Turbines would have capacity factors higher than those of the wind turbines at the very best locations.  For this reason the costs of the electricity produced by the Gulf Stream Turbine be can be less than 2˝ cents per kilowatt-hour and – depending on the financing – could be as low as one cent per kilowatt-hour during the amortization periods.  Of course, the costs of that electricity generated by the Gulf Stream Turbines would drop to virtually zero after the loans are repaid. 

Producing Hydrogen to Balance the Load to the Power Generated

                Because the Gulf Stream flows very steadily, the Gulf Stream Turbines will produce electric power whether there is a demand for power from the grid or not.  Because natural gas will be becoming increasingly scarce and expensive, we must develop a radically different approach to producing electricity.  Instead of adding more generating capacity in the form of gas-fired “peakers” to handle periods of high demand, we should generate more than enough power from the water turbines’ free energy to cover both the base and peak loads by adding additional loads to fully utilize their generating capacity during those periods of low demand from the grid.  Although electric energy is not easily stored as electricity, it can be converted to other forms that can be stored.  These forms include both the charging of batteries that can be used to power both electric and “plug-in” hybrids – as well as the production of hydrogen to power fuel-cell-powered vehicles. 


Future Cars Should Probably be “Plug-in” Hybrids

In addition to powering the fuel cells, the Gulf Stream Turbines can be the primary source of energy for “plug-in” hybrids.  Unlike the hybrid cars of today that use small internal combustion engines to operate the car and charge the batteries for extra power – the “plug-in” hybrids would have rechargeable nickel-metal-hydride batteries that could be recharged during the night from the grid.  To give these vehicles acceptable range, hydrogen-powered fuel cells or small hydrogen-powered internal combustion engines could be used to recharge the batteries when the vehicles would be going on longer trips.  Because it would probably be cheaper, the hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engine might be the best choice for those vehicles that only rarely exceeded the ranges provided by fully charged batteries.  This type of vehicle would serve very well for normal commuting and for trips to the store.  If these plug-in hybrids used hydrogen, 100% of their energy could be produced from the “free” kinetic energy contained in the Gulf Stream or in the winds.  Until such time as the nation is producing full-cell-powered cars, the hydrogen produced by the off-peak operation of the Gulf Stream turbines could be stored to power the utility’s existing gas-fired peakers with “free” hydrogen.