In Brief
Some big names in the energy industry are putting billions of dollars into the research and development of hydrogen power storage solutions. Critics call the plans convoluted and believe batteries are good enough for the job.

Power Tanks

Finding ways to properly store energy is a vital part of moving the world away from using fossil fuels to generate power. Renewable energy sources like wind and solar are dependent on many uncontrollable factors, so there is a need to store excess energy for use when sunlight and wind are in short supply.

Right now, battery storage efforts primarily focus on lithium-ion batteries, but that may be changing in the near future. Major players in the energy business are beginning to invest more money into hydrogen-based storage solutions. According to Bloomberg, companies like Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Uniper SE, BMW, and Audi have begun to back research into hydrogen energy storage, since hydrogen can store energy much longer than lithium-ion batteries are capable.

Pierre-Etienne Franc, initiative secretary of the Hydrogen Council, predicts that “The years 2020 to 2030 will be for hydrogen what the 1990s were for solar and wind. It’s a real strategic shift.”

 

Image credit: germanborrillo/Flickr
Image credit: germanborrillo/Flickr

Question of Efficiency

Even with the increased focus on research and development for hydrogen storage, not everyone is on board with the push. Erik Fairbairn, chief executive officer of Pod Point Ltd., a company which makes electric vehicle charging units, told Bloomberg: “Generally speaking, when you change energy from one form to another, you lose efficiency. You create hydrogen mainly by electrolyzing water, using electricity to split the hydrogen from oxygen and right off the bat, you lose a quarter of your energy to this.”

With this in mind, it’s understandable to consider such a plan convoluted, especially when lithium-ion batteries already fill the role these innovations are supposed to take. It will take increased research for the efficiency of these methods to be increased so that the duration of storage capacity outweighs the losses in efficiency.

In September, the Hydrogen Council will be meeting in New York City for Climate Week to discuss an effective implementation plan, so that, as they say, “the compelling  benefits of hydrogen deployment can be reaped.”