The energy crisis today feels a lot like that old adage, “water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.” Big industries and politicians stranded in the middle of an ocean would sooner die from drinking saltwater in lieu of Dasani as long as it suited their interests and lined their pockets. We live in an incredible era where we have the technology to magically produce usable energy from the sun, wind, rivers, tides, and even floor tiles . But companies and the politicians who benefit from fossil fuels are much too busy collecting their dirty money to see that coal, oil, and even natural gas are going to ruin us all.
One of the biggest challenges that they’d throw out as an argument against renewable energy alternatives is storage. Lithium that’s used in batteries is super expensive and hard to get en masse, and opponents wouldn’t hesitate to point out the harm that lithium collection does to the environment. We may be able to rely on the sun, wind, and tides for energy during specific times of day in some parts of the country but, unless excess energy can be stored and transported, you’d have a hard time convincing anyone that we can get all our energy from these sources. You may wonder about hydroelectric or nuclear energy. While these are great complementary and consistent sources of energy, nuclear is really only ideal for tackling a power grid’s base load, the minimum amount of energy needed throughout the day, and hydroelectric can’t account for all US energy demands.
So, if we really want to step away from fossil fuels we need to address this energy storage issue. Thankfully, there does seem to be an emerging consensus from the scientific community: hydrogen. According to the International Energy Agency, the only thing preventing hydrogen fuel/storage from being a big player in the energy transition and our economy is its implementation. The more widespread it is, the more usable and cheap it becomes — and that’s really all it’s missing.
What makes hydrogen energy storage the method of choice? Well, one of its biggest pulls is that the use of hydrogen produces zero carbon emissions. Hydrogen molecules contain no carbon, they’re quite simply two hydrogen atoms hanging out together. Using the process of electrolysis, you can turn two water molecules into just O2 + 2H2! One of the most ideal ways to produce it is just by hooking it up to a solar panel and using its excess energy to split water. No harmful gasses or sludge to worry about. On top of that, it makes great energy storage because unlike coal and oil, gasses are compressible. That means given the containers, you can jam a lot of hydrogen into a small space. One last advantage that everyone is sure to understand is hydrogen’s light weight. Hydrogen molecules are half as heavy as helium, so if you get a birthday balloon with hydrogen in it, be sure to hold on tight because if you let it go it’ll really fly away. This makes it great for transport around the globe to get energy to the places that need it most.
In short, if you’re looking for a new stock market investment, hydrogen technology looks very promising. It’s up-and-coming in the renewable energy world and we’re finally starting to see some big steps being taken in the transportation sector with cars and airplanes. Some new advancements in the technology are even looking into electrolyzing saltwater so maybe we can convince Exxon and the politicians they’ve got under their thumb to get on board…
Written by UVM Guest Writer: Sean Magnifico
*Edited by Annie Stibora.