Saturday, July 19, 2008

Combining wind power with hydrogen: A science fiction idea

I had a fun idea of a possible energy future. If I find out that someone else has already thought of it, I'll give them credit. The basic idea is to convert wind power into electricity, turn the electricity into hydogen at a water source, ship the hydrogen to market in huge robot controlled hydrogen filled balloons, and then compress the hydrogen and use it to power motor vehicles.

T. Boone Pickens is currently advocating building windmills all through the Western great plains of the United States. He notes that that region of the United States, from West Texas north to Canada, is the Saudi Arabia of wind power.

He advocates getting the electricity to market by building power lines from the Great Plains to the population centers that are currently using natural-gas fired power plants, and then using the freed up natural gas to run motor vehicles, decreasing the need for gasoline produced by foreign oil.

It's an excellent plan, but as Senator Obama points out wind power has the problem that the wind does not always blow. Electricity produced by wind power needs to be stored when it is coming in strongly so that stored electricity will be available at other times. In other words, windmills would need batteries.

Perhaps power lines could be built to transport the electricity produced by wind mills to a water source, such as, perhaps, the Missouri River where factories could use electrolysis to turn the electricity into hydrogen and oxygen, releasing the oxygen into the air but collecting the hydrogen for use in powering cars.

I realize this is a fanciful idea with many likely drawbacks. Still, in my minds eye I see a future in which robot-controlled zepellins fly hydrogen produced by windmills to the markets where it would be compressed and used to fuel vehicles.


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