Scotland is currently working to take advantage of its vast array of wind power by using it to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells.
Scotland may be a small country, but it has a big voice in the wind energy industry. The country is looking to use their offshore wind resources to make hydrogen to power fuel cells. Their goal, to decarbonize the transportation sector, which has a high carbon footprint.
But what’s the process to do this?
A fuel cell uses the chemical energy of hydrogen to cleanly and efficiently produce electricity. In addition to the electricity it generates, water and heat are the only byproducts of a fuel cell. Fuel cells can provide power for systems as large as a utility power station and as small as a laptop computer.
Water molecules (H₂O) each contain two atoms of Hydrogen and one Oxygen. A water molecule can be “split” by running an electrical current into Hydrogen and Oxygen. Electricity is used to separate the hydrogen in water from its oxygen bonds. All that’s needed is water, plenty of electricity, and a functioning electrolyser, which is the device that splits the hydrogen and oxygen from each other in water; wind turbines will provide the electricity needed to power the process.
Ibderola-owned ScottishPower Renewables, BOC, and ITM Power of South Yorkshire, are teaming up to provide the infrastructure needed for the project.
Because renewable energy is getting cheaper by the day, Scotland believes that it can take full advantage of this process.
Because of its expense ($3-$6/kg), until now, there has been limited use of Hydrogen as a fuel. Scotland and Australia are the first countries with projects aimed at mass production of hydrogen. With the availability of inexpensive off-peak electricity generated by wind turbines Interest in the world of green hydrogen is growing exponentially. With improved technology and experience with projects like the Scottish one described here, the price of producing hydrogen is falling.
This poses a challenge to natural gas as a “Bridge Fuel”.
Many have seen natural gas as the ‘bridge fuel’ that can get us from oil to renewables, a lower carbon fossil fuel that might act as a bridge and get us from oil to a sustainable fuel. Though natural gas is lower in carbon than oil, it contains methane, which is a more potent climate altering gas than Carbon.
Glasgow is the first city in the UK to set a goal of becoming a zero-carbon city by 2030. Hydrogen powered fuel cells are a key component of this plan. If the project can supply clean hydrogen at a competitive price for organizations with large fleets of vehicles, it may well be a game changer, providing the world with a cheap, non-polluting fuel for transportation and many other applications.
If you want to learn more about green hydrogen and the UK’s renewable energy plan, check out the links below.