April 28, 2014 – Vol.19 No.4

Use Renewable Energy to Make Fuel, Not Electricity.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News

 

There's no solar electricity when the Sun doesn't shine.

There's no wind energy when there's no wind.

Neither wind nor solar energy can ever replace coal or natural gas for power generation until these basic limitations are dealt with. Renewable energy needs to be steady, reliable and available round the clock if it will ever power the world. (And it could.)

Energy storage you say? Is storing renewable electricity in rechargeable batteries the solution? Not unless there's a stunning breakthrough in battery technology. (So far nothing.)

Yet, there's a simple way to store renewable energy. Use wind and solar energy as the energy source to manufacture a non-carbon, zero-emission fuel.

(Let's stop here and define what a fuel is. From the American Heritage Science Dictionary: A substance that produces useful energy when it undergoes a chemical or nuclear reaction. Or the Farlex Trivia Dictionary: A substance that can be consumed to produce energy.

What fuel then?

Hydrogen is one possibility. Hydrogen is a carrier of energy. It takes energy to make it. It has energy potential and it can be a fuel. Hydrogen can be particularly safe when stored in metal hydrides. (Yet I don't know how expensive this is.}

Metals are another possibility. Yes, metal can be a fuel. Metals have energy potential just like hydrogen. Metals store energy too. They have oodles of electrons ready to move and flow, as soon as a dissimilar metal is nearby and oxygen is in the room.

Keep in mind your high school science: Any metal that can oxidize (better known as rust or corrosion) that's in the presence of one that doesn't, has electrons available for current flow. This is basic battery chemistry.

With this basic battery chemistry, replacing or replenishing the corroding metal with fresh, unoxidized metal can keep this battery churning out electrons 24/7, regardless of time of day or weather conditions.

The act of replacing or replenishing metal turns it into a fuel. And the device to use this metal fuel is a metal fuel cell, not unlike those available at the corner drug store to power hearing aids in the form of zinc-air batteries.

Protected from corrosion when exposed air or moisture, metals can be stored indefinitely: A nice feature for fuels. And of course corroded, spent, oxidized metals can be recycled using the the same clean renewable energy that made it in the first place. Another nice feature.

Would an endless cycle of metal fuels be economical? Probably not. At least in the beginning.

So, divert wind and solar electricity now sent to the grid to production facilities that make some kind of non-carbon fuel, like metals or hydrogen, and presto you have the possibility 24 hour, 7 days a week, bad weather or good, windy day or not, clean energy that could power the world forever.

The best thing about renewable fuels made from renewables is that the planet would have a permanent clean energy supply - a forever fuel if you will. Wars and worries over energy supplies would disappear along with the pollution and planet-warming greenhouse gases of conventional power plants.

 

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