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Hydrogen

New storage nanotechnology for hydrogen, carbon dioxide

Several significant technology breakthroughs are needed to transition to a hydrogen based economy. The biggest question is how to store and transport copious amounts of hydrogen gas. Researchers at UCLA may have made significant headway in this regard.

Omar Yaghi and his team at the Center for Reticular Chemistry have developed new nanostructures called covalent organic frameworks (COFs). The COFs act as “crystalline sponges” and soak up specific gases. They work in a similar fashion to the molecular sieves that help remove water from ethanol fuel.

Molecular pores are designed to exclusively hold molecules of a specific size and shape. COFs benefit from high thermal stability, extremely low densities and large surface areas. COF-108, the lightest crystalline structure ever, has approximately the same surface area as “30 tennis courts”. COFs can be adapted for a variety of different functions. Yaghi specifically cited COFs as a possible storage medium for carbon dioxide capture and sequestration systems.

Omnibus Bill S.F. 2096

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The Environment, Natural Resources, and Energy Omnibus Bill (S.F. 2096) is out of conference committee and will be signed by Governor Pawlenty, according to Minnesota Environmental Partnership's John Tuma.

This bill touches on nuclear, hydrogen, wind, and carbon sequestration - all toward the bottom of the bill if you are inclined to read the direct language. It also continued to fund the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE) at the University of Minnesota.

On nuke stuff - Xcel Energy already has to contribute to the Renewable Development Fund (RDF). Groups can get money from this fund to develop or commercialize renewable energy projects. Xcel now has to pay an additional $350,000 per year for each dry cask of spent fuel it stores on-site at the Monticello plant.

Outside of this bill, some are apparently opposing Xcel's new storage out of safety concerns though some are accusing them of merely using an excuse to block nuclear power. I'm not sure where that is at currently, but I certainly hope Xcel is able to continue running Monticello as existing nuclear power plants strike me as a win-win compared to needing to build more coal baseload plants.

Interestingly, nuclear power plant troubles have negatively impacted Xcel's profits. Looks like the future of nuclear power might not be as bright green as some have suggested.

Back to S.F. 2096 - the bill also makes it clear that Xcel can apply for RDF money though it must be judged equally to other applications.

Public Utilities must make monthly reports to to the PUC that show a bunch of stats, including number of customers, number and amount of accounts past due, average monthly bill, total sales revenue, and a bunch of stats relating to low-income energy programs. All this will be made publicly available. The bill has a bunch of language about the cold weather rule - detailing when utilities can cut power/fuel to customers for nonpayment and the rules for reconnecting. I'm not sure how this differs from current law.

On Hydrogen, the bill gets more specific than current law. Hydrogen fuel is to come from renewable sources and several Minnesota Agencies are to move beyond "identifying opportunities" to demonstrate the technology to identifying opportunities to deploy the technology. In other areas, it strengthens the language to force agencies to push harder for Hydrogen applications as it becomes feasible.

It creates the Minnesota Renewable Hydrogen Initiative:

The Department of Commerce shall coordinate and administer directly or by contract the Minnesota renewable hydrogen initiative. If the department decides to contract for its duties under this section, it must contract with a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization within the state to develop the road map. The initiative may be run as a public-private partnership representing business, academic, governmental, and nongovernmental organizations. The initiative must oversee the development and implementation of a renewable hydrogen road map, including appropriate technology deployments, that achieve the hydrogen goal of section 216B.013. ... The road map should describe how renewable hydrogen and fuel cells fit in Minnesota's overall energy system, and should help foster a consistent, predictable, and prudent investment environment. The department must report to the legislature on the progress in implementing the road map by November 1 of each odd-numbered year.

The DoC will be awarding grants to help meet renewable hydrogen energy goals. By the end of next year, the Labor and Industry Commissioner will have recommendations for the Legislature to unify codes and standards for a hydrogen infrastructure. It will also deal with saftey standards for the "production, storage, transportation, distribution, and use of hydrogen, fuel cells, and related technologies.

On Manitoba Hydro - it specifies a task force that will collect information about who is employed by the project and the status of lawsuits against the project as well as its environmental impacts.

On Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTS), the bill says that they are great and says the commissioner may use the teams to "provide professional, technical, organizational, and financial assistance to regions and communities to develop and implement community energy programs and projects, within available resources."

Section 28 creates a Rural Energy Development Revolving Loan Fund. The fund is limited to loans less than $100,000 and has a max interest rate of 1.5%. It will assist in funding wind studies and transmission interconnection studies.

By Feb 1, 2008, the DoC will have issued recommendations based upon a stakeholder group's evaluation of designing a system to allow off-site renewable distributed generation. This would essentially allow some groups to invest in wind turbines while keeping the renewable energy credits that currently tend to go to utilities. The utilities are opposed to it, so we'll see what this stakeholder group does.

When it comes to Carbon Sequestration, the bill deals with both terrestrial (storing carbon in soil and vegetation) and geologic (injecting it underground). The University of Minnesota is going to assess Minnesota's terrestrial sequestration potential and impacts. The Minnesota Geologic Survey will study the possibilities and impacts of sequesting carbon geologically in the Midcontinent Rift system.

Finally, there was a question about whether county governments may own wind projects or not. Winona County now can. Rather than clarify whether all counties can do this, it just says that Winona County can use certain powers granted to municipal power agencies.

Why did Ford CEO Mulally lie about hydrogen test vehicle?

For those unfamiliar with the original story: Over the weekend, every blog and news outlet started reporting that Ford CEO Alan Mulally told Detroit News (while at the NY Auto Show):

Bush with hydrogen-electric hybrid...he intervened to prevent President Bush from plugging an electrical cord into the hydrogen tank of Ford's hydrogen-electric plug-in hybrid at the White House last week.

(...)

However, as Mulally followed Bush out to the car, he noticed someone had left the cord lying at the rear of the vehicle, near the fuel tank.

"I just thought, 'Oh my goodness!' So, I started walking faster, and the President walked faster and he got to the cord before I did. I violated all the protocols. I touched the President. I grabbed his arm and I moved him up to the front," Mulally said. "I wanted the president to make sure he plugged into the electricity, not into the hydrogen. This is all off the record, right?"

Hydrogen label near tank cap on Ford hybrid test vehicle

This never passed the smell test for me. For this to be an actual danger to the President (and VP Cheney who was close behind Mulally) the tank would have to be actively leaking hydrogen. Furthermore, Bush would have to choose not to read the large "HYDROGEN" label next to the tank cap. I decided a post theorizing whether Ford's hydrogen-electric plug-in hybrid was fatally flawed or if Mulally thinks Bush doesn't read (or both) wasn't worth the time.

Thank god for Keith Olbermann who actually pulled the video of the event. Turns out, none of what Mulally told Detroit News was true. The extension cord was near the correct end of the vehicle and he didn't touch the President.

Why would the CEO of Ford suggest that the President almost blew himself up using a Ford hydrogen test vehicle? Energy blogger amazngdrx has a theory - Mulally was sloppily trying to discredit alternative fuel vehicles.

Outrageous exaggeration or shadowy conspiracy? You decide.

(Photo of Bush/Mulally/Cheney by Mark Wilson - Getty Images).

GM Developing Home Hydrogen Refueling Device

General Motors is building a prototype for a home hydrogen refueling unit in hope of selling fuel-cell cars by 2011. According to USA Today, the unit, which would make hydrogen using either electricity or sunlight, would help sidestep one of the most vexing problems surrounding the creation of the pollution-free, alternative-power cars: "how to persuade oil companies to invest in expensive new hydrogen stations that would compete with their core product, gasoline." More on GM Refueler.

Pop Mech on Hydrogen

Popular Mechanics has a pessimistic article about the most abundent element in the universe - Hydrogen. More specifically, the hydrogen economy.

Before delving too deeply into it, I want to start where they end - by noting that hydrogen technology will have its place in the future but is not the cure-all for our ills.

Ultimately, hydrogen may be just one part of a whole suite of energy alternatives. Any one of them will involve investing heavily in new infrastructure. Though the price tag will be steep, we can't afford oil's environmental, economic and political drawbacks any longer.

As most of us recognize, our problems must be solved by diversifying our energy sources and restructuring the organization of our lives. Investment and research into future technologies is only a piece of the solution.

This passage features the key ideas and ends with my favorite quote.

At first glance, hydrogen would seem an ideal substitute for these problematic fuels. Pound for pound, hydrogen contains almost three times as much energy as natural gas, and when consumed its only emission is pure, plain water. But unlike oil and gas, hydrogen is not a fuel. It is a way of storing or transporting energy. You have to make it before you can use it — generally by extracting hydrogen from fossil fuels, or by using electricity to split it from water.

And while oil and gas are easy to transport in pipelines and fuel tanks — they pack a lot of energy into a dense, stable form — hydrogen presents a host of technical and economic challenges. The lightest gas in the universe isn't easy to corral.

Popular Mechanics details 4 hydrogen hurdles: production, storage, distribution, and use. Nearly all hydrogen is currently produced using natural gas. The future may allow production of hydrogen from electrolysis using electricity from the grid - again, this seems like shifting the problem rather than solving it.

To my mind though, the biggest problem remains the issue of transportation (or distribution in the article's lingo).

Currently, most hydrogen is transported either in liquid form by tankers or as compressed gas in cylinders by trailers. Both methods are inefficient. Trucking compressed hydrogen 150 miles, for instance, burns diesel equivalent to 11 percent of the energy the hydrogen stores. It also requires a lot of round trips: A 44-ton vehicle that can carry enough gasoline to refuel 800 cars could only carry enough hydrogen to fuel 80 vehicles.

Talk of spending the $500 billion or so a hydrogen economy requires in infrastructure seems like a big price tag for a rather wasteful system.

The article suggests that hydrogen might make a lot more sense for fleet vehicles than it would for the general public. This seems a fairly safe bet.

Update: AutoblogGreen, the Energy Blog, and Sustainablog have recently challenged the GM-hydrogen strategy.

Latest information on hydrogen from renewables now available on-line

Presentations from the National Hydrogen Association's first Renewables to Hydrogen Forum in Albuquerque, NM are now available, covering the potential for hydrogen from biomass, wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, as well as implications for utilities.

 

Report from U of M Renewable Energy Workshop Oct. 12

I attended the Renewable Energy Workshop today sponsored by the U of MN Electrical Engineering Department. As expected, it was largely technology-focused, with some general discussions of the challenges facing renewable energy here and elsewhere. (And a good buffet style lunch). Here a few salient points of the talks I attended.

A Power Grid for the Hydrogen Economy - Thomas Overbye, U of Illinois

The speaker talked about his research into superconducting transmission lines. The idea behind the project is to supplement our existing grid with a network of underground high voltage DC transmission lines made with superconducting material. The benefit of using superconductors is that the current density can be much higher, so fewer transmission lines have to be built. Line losses would also be minimized.

Each line would consist of a superconducting core for carrying the electricity with an outer ring of liquid hydrogen, which would act both as a coolant and an energy storage mechanism. During times of low electricity demand, excess electricity from renewable sources would be used to create the hydrogen via electrolysis.

Though such a grid is technically feasible, cost is a major issue, though the speaker was quick to note that anything transmission related is expensive. He quoted a figure of roughly $2.5 million per mile to install these cables. Water scarcity may also be an issue in some places.

Lessons from Norway - an unlisted speaker, didn't get his name

(A grad student actually did this talk in place of his professor, who was scheduled to speak but couldn't make it.)

This talk mainly focused on the challenges facing Norway in meeting its future electrical demand and making use of its vast renewable energy potential (enough to supply twice that of its current annual consumption.) Currently, 99% of Norway's generation comes from low cost hydropower. However, similar to here, demand is outpacing supply. More supply will have to be brought on in coming years.

I was struck by how similar the challenges facing renewable energy are to here - public resistance (in the case of wind), cost (wind energy is still more significantly more expensive than hydropower), and political uncertainty (will subsidies continue?) Norway is also facing transmission limitations, just like here.Especially of note is that public resistance to wind energy projects has increased in recent years, for all the typical reasons - avian mishaps, other wildlife impacts, and aesthetics.

Planning for Renewable Energy at a MN Utility - Glen Skarbakka, Mgr of Resource Planning, Great River Energy

The speaker talked about the challenges of meeting GRE's rapidly growing load (about 100 MW/year) while incorporating renewables. GRE's load is mostly residential, meaning that demand goes way up in the summer, but varies a lot day to day, depending on weather. This makes it a challenge to use wind energy, which is not dispatchable in the traditional sense (though forecasting has gotten highly accurate.)

I was mostly impressed by GRE's goals to reduce its CO2 emissions to 2000 levels by 2020, as well as doubling its renewable objective of 10%. The speaker admitted that meeting the first will be extremely challenging, to say the least.

Wind Energy - Present Projects and Potential in Minnesota - John Dunlop, American Wind Energy Association

The speaker talked about how wind turbine technology has advanced over the last 20 years and how wind energy continues to grow rapidly in the US and elsewhere. He also provided a nice summary of the recent situation with the Dept of Defense blocking new wind farms due to concerns over radar. The report finally came out on Sept. 27, 143 days late. It didn't really say anything that could not have been written in one day - only that wind farms can interfere with radar. It didn't offer any mitigation measures to help current or future projects move forward. Sounded like a great use of taxpayer dollars.

Update on CapX 2020 - Terry Grove, GRE

The CapX project is an ongoing transmission planning project involving all major utiltiies in Minnesota, planning transmission needs through 2020. I already knew how long this process takes, but the uninitiatied would probably be shocked. Though, there are good reasons it takes this long. The Certificate of Need process for the first group of lines, mainly to improve reliability, alone will take through 2008. Then route permits have to be aquired, which will take through 2010. During this time, lots of meetings are held with city governments, landowners, and other agencies. The proposed Brookings -SE Minnesota line alone will require that 200,000 landowners be notified. This is just a massive undertaking.

From what I've heard, the last round of tranmission construction was an extremely drawn out and painful process. It will be even worse this time around, due to the industry restructuring that has occured since then. Now, independent power producers can bid in new projects to the MISO queue. Most of these projects fail to get off the ground, since banks won't supply the financing until a power purchase agreement is signed - a chicken and egg problem - meaning that planners don't know where new generation will actually be.

Results of Research Funded by NSF, Xcel Energy, and ONR - Ned Mohan, Electrical Engineering, U of MN

Ned gave an overview of renewable energy-related research in the EE department, then talked mainly about a matrix converter his research team developed. The converter can be used with any variable speed generator, including wind turbines and will boost power output by 1.5X of nameplate ratings. This would also eliminate the problem of bearing currents in typical motors, which eventually destroy the bearing and represent a major maintenance headache. Ned also talked about the benefits of using silicon carbide (SiC) in power electronics, which improves device performance by 10-100 times over plain silicon (Si). The cost of SiC continues to fall, making the use of this material more feasible.

The Bumpy Road to Hydrogen

The history of alternative transportation fuels is largely a history of failures. Niche fuels such as liquefied petroleum gases (LPG) and compressed natural gas (CNG) have persisted here and there over the years, but never captured significant market penetration for a sustained period. The two exceptions are ethanol in Brazil, made from sugar cane, and ethanol in the US, made from corn. For both these cases, the fuel was heavily subsidized and protected for decades. They are now commercially successful, though at relatively small volumes, and will remain so as long as oil prices remain high. The real lesson is that success came only after decades of durable policy and subsidies, high oil prices and, in the case of Brazil, a committed automotive industry (first building dedicated ethanol vehicles and then after their failure following a decade later with flexible fuel vehicles).

Will hydrogen succeed, where so many previous alternatives have failed? Will hydrogen be able to elicit durable policy support, as did ethanol in Brazil and the US? Might hydrogen succeed on a grand scale, where others have not?

EDITOR'S NOTE: This paper was presented at the World Hydrogen Energy Conference in Lyon, France, June 15, 2006. I think it is among the most persuasive arguments for hydrogen playing a role in the future energy system.

Read the full article

Skepticism About Distributed Generation

When one has made a decision to kill a person, even if it will be very difficult to succeed by advancing straight ahead, it will not do to think about doing it in a long, roundabout way. One's heart may slacken, he may miss his chance, and by and large there will be no success. The Way of the Samurai is one of immediacy, and it is best to dash in headlong.

-Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

 

So Al Gore’s speech at NYU on September 18 got me thinking about Distributed Generation. For those who haven’t read it yet, an archived webcast and the full text can be found here.
It was a terrific speech, by the way, and I could occupy a lot of space praising it, but that wouldn’t be very interesting. After all, you probably liked it too. But it was one issue that got me thinking, and which gave the impetus for this post. What I really want to talk about today is Distributed Generation, or DG. Gore gave voice to some ideas that are very widespread among left-leaning energy advocates, and many of those ideas deserve closer consideration.

I’m using this post to flesh out some of my critiques of the idea of Distributed Generation. Fundamentally, in reference to the quote above, I think DG advocates are setting out to solve the wrong problem. Our problem is not large-station electricity generation, our problem is climate change and energy security. Its my feeling that in dealing with climate change we are likely to deploy carbon-neutral energy technologies using the same large station (or refinery) production and distribution model that we use right now.

Wikipedia describes DG thus:

Distributed generation is a new trend in the generation of heat and electrical power. The Distributed Energy Resources (DER) concept permits "consumers" who are generating heat or electricity for their own needs (like in hydrogen stations and microgeneration) to send surplus electrical power back into the power grid - also known as net metering - or share excess heat via a distributed heating grid.

 Here’s what Gore says on the subject.

Today, our nation faces threats very different from those we countered during the Cold War. We worry today that terrorists might try to inflict great damage on America’s energy infrastructure by attacking a single vulnerable part of the oil distribution or electricity distribution network. So, taking a page from the early pioneers of ARPANET, we should develop a distributed electricity and liquid fuels distribution network that is less dependent on large coal-fired generating plants and vulnerable oil ports and refineries.

 So the main point of DG is that we rely more and more on homes and businesses producing their own electricity, and possibly selling electricity onto the grid and less and less on large station power generation (how we, by and large, do things now). Gore extends DG to include distributed (presumably somewhat larger scale) biofuels production as well. The main arguments are security (Gore’s argument), greater energy efficiency through the use of combined heat and power, and economic/self-reliance benefits (producing your own power, yeah!).

I think a lot of DG advocates miss some glaring problems.

DG and Economies of Scale

One problem with DG is that it would rely on small-scale power generation. This is actually put forward as one of the main BENEFITS of DG by many advocates. What these advocates miss is that the economics of energy production are absolutely dominated by economies of scale.

Let’s use wind as an example. A 1MW turbine produces cheaper electricity than a 200 KW turbine. And a large scale project produces cheaper electricity than a small scale project. The reasons for this are fairly intuitive. There are a lot of fixed costs that must be paid whether you’re building a large project or a small project – feasibility studies, wind measurement, planning, running around securing financing and power purchase agreements, paying to secure all of the cement manufacturing capacity in your county to pour the bases for the towers, etc. A larger project produces more kWhs, and the fixed costs can be divided over more kWhs, making the levelized cost of power cheaper.

But if you don’t believe me, you can use NREL’s online Wind Energy Finance Calculator.

To prove my point, I calculated the real levelized cost of energy for a 500 kW project (small), and for a 100 MW project (200 times bigger). I used all of the default assumptions, and only changed the size of the project.

Small (500 kW) real LCOE – 64 cents/kWh

Large (100 MW) real LCOE – 1.29 cents/kWh

So the electricity from the small-scale project is about 60 times more expensive, give or take. Its also about 6 times more expensive than retail grid electricity at about 7 cents/kWh. So in asking people to adopt small-scale distributed wind, we’re asking them to pay a LOT more for electricity than they would pay for grid electricity. Note also that, according to this calculator, a large scale project sells electricity that’s probably cheaper than even WHOLESALE electricity.

Economies of scale differ for various energy technologies, but are almost always a factor. The optimal size for pulverized coal plants, for example, is on the order of 1000 MW or larger. Gas turbines burning natural gas or fuel oil have low capital cost, and are therefore more economical at small scale. But because the levelized cost is more expensive then large station power, and they can be quickly ramped up and down, they are typically used only for peaking power.

Solar power is also cheaper at scale. Home or business scale photovoltaic panels produce electricity at around 20 cents/kWh (around 3 times higher than retail electricity). Only large-scale concentrating solar can produce electricity at anywhere near retail rates.

I could go on and on. The fact is that I can’t point to a DG technology that delivers electricity at a rate that is cheaper than, or even close to, the cost of grid power.

Economies of scale aren’t going away. If we have a limited amount of money to spend, as a society, on dealing with climate solutions, the cost of individual solutions must be a factor. Until we see the new cheap solar panels or fuel cells that we constantly hear are 6 months away (how’s that for a “Friedman”?) may not be able to afford the deployment of DG on a large scale.

Giving Up our Great Renewable Energy Resources

Another damning aspect of DG is that it may mean giving up most of our greatest renewable energy resources. Renewable energy resources like wind, solar, and biomass are not uniformly abundant around the nation. And, unfortunately, many of the best resources fall far from population centers. To stick with the wind example, taking advantage of the vast wind resource of the Great Plains likely means building large transmission lines connecting the wind resource with the potential users of that wind energy (or building large hydrogen pipelines, or building infrastructure for some other energy carrier).

This is true for biomass as well. In urban areas, where most energy is used and most people live, there are serious limits on the potential biomass supply. Take the Twin Cities as an example. There is a famous district heat project in St. Paul (District Energy) that has recently switched from coal to biomass as an energy source. Other projects are being planning, including Rock Ten and the south Minneapolis project formerly run by the Green Institute. Those projects are reportedly having great challenges in finding a sufficient supply of biomass because District Energy has secured much of the available supply of urban wood trimmings and the like. So we’re reaching the limited of the DG biomass potential in the Twin Cities, and supplying only a small fraction of the metro area’s biomass needs.

Utilizing the country’s biomass supply on a large scale probably means having projects in rural areas – with cheap land, fertile soil, and lots of biomass, and transporting products like cellulosic ethanol to demand centers. This will likely be wonderful for rural areas, but its not DG.

Solar energy may one day be an exception to this, but right now economics and the efficiency of panels stand in the way.

Conclusion

My point is not to argue that DG shouldn't be done. I think there are many niche applications for DG. In rural areas and small rural communities, for example, there will be applications for Distributed Generation from renewables, possible in combination with combined heat and power. I know some people who are very excited about their rooftop solar panels, and they don't really care that they're paying a lot for the electricity. I also think that there are credible scenarios under which DG could play a larger role in our energy system, provided there are some really fundamental technological innovations. I think that the vision of mass-produced, highly efficient, renewable DG technology, similar to Personal Computers, is pretty exciting to contemplate. But lets not fool ourselves. This kind of thing is a ways off, whereas there are a variety of large-scale carbon-neutral technologies that are commercial or near commercial and could be deployed over a relatively short time frame.

There are many energy advocates who feel that large station electricity generation is bad by its very nature. There are some who offer DG as an alternative, and even use the DG alternative as a rationale for fighting new transmission and new large energy projects. In the MN legislature last year there was infighting between those who wanted only community, small-scale wind development and those who wanted 20% renewable energy standard which would require a lot of large-scale projects.

All that said, I think that macro-scale analysis of power generation technologies, resources, and demands, will reveal that DG is likely to play a small role in the near term. DG can't be used as an excuse to fight large carbon neutral energy projects.

I welcome comments, and hope this starts some discussion.

 

Shrieking for Energy

The "Coalition for Affordable and Reliable Energy" (CARE), a coal lobby marketing firm, has decided that laptop discoveries about coal will incite women to shriek out loud about "American Energy".

No spontaneous support shrieks have been reported on the Washington DC metro, where the advertisement is running.

There is a lot of support for "American Energy," including "American Energy Independence," "American Energy Security," and my favorite, "Americans for American Energy" (as opposed to Russians?!). The biggest "American Energy" front runners are wind energy, biofuels, and coal. No word yet on whether the European wind energy industry is thinking of changing their name in light of this development.

Minnesota energy historians may remember a similar "energy-excitement" marketing genre from the Padilla Speer Beardsley marketing firm (lesser known as Vanilla Pears and Birdseed), which was hired by the MN Department of Agriculture for their 2004 MN State Fair booth, which featured renewable energy.

Nothing says stereotype like white people in birkenstocks (and that lady second from the right is really whooping more than shrieking).  And no marketing campaign is cheaper than when you gather everyone in the office for the main photo op.  No word on whether the Dept of Ag feels shorted that they weren't invited to be in the picture.

Contrast that with the opposite trend for this Latin American wind energy campaign.

Now we're talking enthusiasm.  There's a wind turbine.  There's a guy.  Wind energy.

Details of the emerging energy marketing genre wars are unknown at this time, but will no doubt be vetted in future advertisements at other random locations where people are fairly oblivious to the point.

Hydrogen powered aircraft

My best friend (Kristin Kelly) works at GA Tech in their Aerospace Engineering lab, and this is passed on from her - a new unmanned aircraft that is powered by fuel cells.

Links:

Full-size Unmanned Aircraft Flies on Hydrogen Fuel

US researchers focus on novel PEM fuel cell membrane materials

Hydrogen fuel-cell UAV takes to the air

Scientific American looks at Energy and Climate Change

The Scientific American recently had a series of articles related to energy and climate change. Unfortunately, most of these require a subscription to access online. You can purchase them or buy the hardcopy.   A Climate Repair Manual [ INTRODUCTION ]
Global warming is a reality. Innovation in energy technology and policy are sorely needed if we are to cope   An Efficient Solution [ ENERGY EFFICIENCY ]
Wasting less energy is the quickest, least expensive way to stem carbon emissions   High Hopes for Hydrogen [ FUEL CELLS AND MORE ]
Using hydrogen to fuel cars may eventually slash oil consumption and carbon emissions, but it will take some time   The Rise of Renewable Energy [ CLEAN POWER ]
Solar cells, wind turbines and biofuels are poised to become major energy sources. New policies could dramatically accelerate that evolution   What to Do about Coal [ CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE ]
Cheap, plentiful coal is expected to fuel power plants for the foreseeable future, but can we keep it from devastating the environment?   A Plan to Keep Carbon in Check [ STRATEGY ]
Getting a grip on greenhouse gases is daunting but doable. The technologies already exist. But there is no time to lose.   Plan B for Energy [ SPECULATIVE TECHNOLOGY ]
If efficiency improvements and incremental advances in today's technologies fail to halt global warming, could revolutionary new carbon-free energy sources save the day? Don't count on it--but don't count it out, either   Fueling Our Transportation Future [ AUTOMOTIVE ANSWERS ]
New technologies, lighter vehicles and alternative fuels can lower greenhouse gas releases from cars and trucks   The Nuclear Option [ ROLE FOR FISSION ]
A threefold expansion of nuclear power could contribute significantly to staving off climate change by avoiding one billion to two billion tons of carbon emissions annually     

A New Look at Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Sciency Daily has a story about a new imaging device at NIST that will allow researchers to watch the internal workings of hydrogen fuel cells.

""Better water management is fundamental to meeting targets for fuel cell performance, reliability and durability. Reaching these targets, in turn, is integral to efforts to replace petroleum with hydrogen to power cars and trucks by 2020--the goal of President Bush's Hydrogen Fuel Initiative."

"An expert panel described the imaging method as "one of the most significant analytical advances in the membrane fuel cell realm in decades." "

Still, nothing that should make one hopeful of having a viable hydrogen solution in the coming decade capable of widespread use.

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