Solar hydrogen: myth and reality by Anne Haas.
Anne Haas, holder of a doctorate in natural sciences (EPFZ solar architecture research center) worked until 1996 in the field of energy storage for renewable energies.
Solar hydrogen? A glance at the publications of the solar scene - national and international - makes me doubt that the subject is really topical today. And despite everything, at my former workplace, we were regularly confronted with requests such as: "I would like to supply my house with solar energy." Is it possible to buy a solar hydrogen system for this? ” Our answer was as follows: in principle yes….
There is, moreover, a hydrogen sector whose publications claim that the "energy problem" could only be solved definitively with solar hydrogen.
The notion of solar hydrogen or energy saving based on solar hydrogen made a very remarkable appearance during the time of the oil crises when solutions were sought to reduce dependence on petroleum imports for food. in energy. But long before that, some renewable energy pioneers had the idea of using hydrogen as a means of energy storage, for example the Danish pioneer in the field of wind energy Poul LaCour at the turn of the century. XXth century.
Since the 70s, countless studies and pilot projects have been carried out with the aim of demonstrating that a hydrogen-based energy supply is possible. It should also be noted that hydrogen has been used for quite some time in the space industry (for rocket propulsion and the production of electricity in satellites) as well as in the military field (electrical supply of sub-units). sailors).
The arguments (of the promoters) of hydrogen as part of the future energy supply
All the followers (1) emphasize that the use of fossil energy supports is very harmful to the environment and that the reserves are limited. If we want to give up fossil fuel supports, we must find a replacement for them.
Representatives of the energy economy continue: hydrogen seems the ideal substitute. Indeed, it is a secondary energy support which is easily transported (note: compared to other renewable energies). It can be manufactured through multiple processes using other energy sources and be integrated into the existing power supply structure. The use of hydrogen is very favorable to the environment. The emissions mainly consist only of water vapor. So let's build our atomic and solar power plants in the desert and produce hydrogen there.
The pioneers in the field of renewable energies have other priorities. The only reasonable energy supply is based on renewable sources. These are available locally but subject to significant daily and seasonal fluctuations. Hydrogen is ideal for long-term storage of excess energy. It is therefore necessary to install a PV sensor on the roof of the villa and a hydrogen installation in the cellar to ensure our self-sufficiency in the energy field.
These two interest groups are distinguished by the fact that they quickly get enthusiastic about any technology. However, the question arises as to whether solar hydrogen is necessary to ensure the large-scale transition to an energy supply based mainly or even solely on renewable sources. What would such a power structure look like? What are the alternatives to hydrogen to solve the problems that arise?
The point of view of an energy specialist (Comments in the margin)
- At conferences, the (male) experts are primarily interested in what is hidden under the hood of the hydrogen-powered BMW (which can sometimes be a Mercedes).
- "The Canadian government is coping with ecological and ethnological damage." Here is the response from the representative of a Euro-Canadian hydrogen project, faced with critical questions posed after his presentation: "This is none of our business."
- The fact of focusing on the hydrogen option completely eliminates the alternatives (2) and above all feeds the fantasy of being able to continue to waste unlimited energy.
- The large-scale use of hydrogen allows large companies active in the energy supply to maintain their power.
- This concept is equally suitable for an economy based on both nuclear and hydrogen, since in this case too, possibilities of transport and intermediate storage are sought.
- The slogan “Small is beautiful” has its origins in the desire to distance itself from the major energy distributors and their policies. However, splitting up into very small self-sufficient units is neither desirable from a social point of view nor from an ecological point of view (consumption of materials). The discussion on hydrogen can even block the diffusion of renewable energies if one takes into account the financial aspects or the rapid technical availability.
It is above all the order in which the measures are taken that is important:
- Use energy rationally, save energy,
- Introduce the use of renewable energies (it is possible to still connect a large number of solar installations before producing surpluses),
- Evaluate the alternatives that come up with each use,
- Hydrogen is just one of them,
- Treat hydrogen only as an option and develop it,
- But lead the discussion about the future energy supply politically!
(1) I chose the masculine here because I don't know of any publication that was written by women.
(2) Biogas, for example, meets the same criteria as hydrogen.
Source: Source: Sonnen energy, June 1998