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Q: Alternative energy - wind turbines - hydrogen fuel - fuel cells. ( Answered,   2 Comments )
Subject: Alternative energy - wind turbines - hydrogen fuel - fuel cells.
Category: Science > Technology
Asked by: jrg-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 24 Apr 2002 00:00 PDT
Expires: 01 May 2002 00:00 PDT
Question ID: 3315
It is my understanding that the cost of producing electrical power from wind 
turbines continues to decline and is nearing the point of competitiveness with 
other methods of electrical production.  How feasable would it be to launch 
a "shoot the moon" wind energy project in the U.S. and Canada?  Is it feasable 
to use this renewable, clean energy to produce hydrogen or hydrogen-based fuel 
such as sodium borohydride?  Can fuel cells and electrical turbines replace the 
internal combustion engine and petroleum fuels?  What subsidies would be 
required be to launch and sustain such a project?  How important is natural gas 
in weaning our independence from oil?  Could we achieve energy independence 
from OPEC and its allies with a massive project of this kind?

I just finished reading David Kennedy's book "Freedom From Fear," and realized 
that when there is a national will, such as occurred when we converted to a war 
economy after Pearl Harbor, amazing things can be done in the United States.  
We just have to create the vision and will to become energy independent.  Or is 
this foolishness and a pipe dream?
Subject: Re: Alternative energy - wind turbines - hydrogen fuel - fuel cells.
Answered By: skis4jc-ga on 25 Apr 2002 16:15 PDT
Dear Jrg,

Thank you for your inquiry!

Yes, it is very feasible to launch a “shoot the moon” wind energy
project in the U.S. and Canada, in fact, it’s already being done!  (I
assume by “shoot the moon” you mean a large scale operation).  To see
some examples of wind energy currently in motion, check out these

U.S. Department of Energy
National Wind Technology Center

To answer your second question, yes, technically it would be possible
to use wind energy to produce hydrogen, or hydrogen fuel cells, but
because they both produce energy I’m not sure why anyone would want to
do that.  Essentially fuel cells work by converting hydrogen and
oxygen into water and electricity, without using combustion.  As you
may already know, the most promising fuel cells are referred to as PEM
fuel cells (Proton Exchange Membrane).  Basically, this variety
divides two chambers on opposite sides of a platinum-coated plastic
membrane with microscopic holes big enough for only a hydrogen proton
to jump through.  One of the latest fuel cells actually run on
hydrogen taken from sodium borohydride.  To read an article on how
hydrogen can be stored safely in sodium borohydride, visit:

Christian Science Monitor – Fuel Cell Cars

Wind energy and fuel cells don’t currently have much competition with
each other because generally wind energy is stored and used for
practical purposes like generating electricity, charging batteries,
pumping water, or grinding grain. Mostly large, modern wind turbines
operate together in wind farms to produce electricity for utilities. 
There are some small turbines are used by homeowners and remote
villages to help meet energy needs, but that isn’t very common.  The
major focuses of fuel cell technology right now it to use it’s
applications on electric vehicles and large, grid-connected utility
power plants.  Many experts would argue that fuel cells are coming
down enough in price to be competitive with current electrical
generators for mid-size buildings, and are expected to be cheap enough
to power cars in the near future.  In fact, many auto manufacturers
are releasing fuel cell powered cars, or are planning to in the next 3
years.  To read more about that, visit:

Fuel Cell Cars
DaimlerChrysler unveils fuel-cell vehicle

Undoubtedly, fuel cells and electrical turbines CAN replace the  
internal combustion engine and petroleum fuels, and most likely WILL
in the future as we are already starting to slowly see some of that
happen now!  This is exciting new for energy enthusiasts like
yourself!  Some of the major subsides required to launch wind and fuel
cell technology are tax credits from the government.  Currently, PTC
is the Production Tax Credit that is given by the American government
for the first 10 years of new wind plant operations.

Published this month was a paper on the “Economics of Wind Energy” by
the American Wind Energy Association.  They rightfully state that “the
cost of wind energy varies widely depending upon the wind speed at any
given project site.”
They also note that unfortunately, financing for wind projects still
remains more expensive than for mainstream forms of electricity

According to the California Energy Commission’s 1996 Energy Technology
Status Report, the economic breakdown of energy is this:

Wind (with PTC) – 3.3- 5.3
Wind (w/o PTC) – 4.0-6.0
Gas – 3.9-4.4
Coal – 4.8-5.5
Hydro – 5.1-11.3
Biomass – 5.8-11.6
Nuclear – 11.1-14.5

It’s common knowledge that the cost of natural gas has increased
significantly since 1996, so it’s not too competitive with wind right
now.  The rest of these figures have remained largely unchanged.  To
view this pape in it’s entirety visit:

American Wind Energy Association

According to another paper by the AWEA on the Comparative Costs of
Wind and Other Energy Sources, they state that:

“The cost of wind energy is declining steadily.  Long-term forecasts
of the early 1990s and Pacific Gas and Electric and the Electric Power
Research Institute (RPRI) that wind would ultimately become the least
expensive electricity generation source are no longer pipe dreams. It
is clear now that wind’s costs are now in a competitive range with
those of mainstream power technologies”

Comparative Costs of Wind and Other Energy Sources

American Wind Energy Association

Alternative Energy Institute

In regards to your question about independence from OPEC, that all
lies in the hands of OPEC and our nations leaders.  I’m glad you
enjoyed David Kennedy’s book, “Freedom From Fear”, and I would
encourage you to lobby your Congressmen about these important energy
issues you feel so passionately about.  You can help make this “pipe
dream” even more of a reality that it’s already becoming!

Search terms used:
fuel cells
wind power
alternative energy

Have a wonderful day!

Best Regards,

Clarification of Answer by skis4jc-ga on 25 Apr 2002 19:22 PDT
Dear Jrg,

Additionally, according to an internationally recognized fuel cell
expert, Dr. Michael McKubre, yes, it is feasible to use wind energy to
produce hydrogen or hydrogen-based fuel such as Sodium Borohydride:

"Photovoltaic or wind turbine rafts on the ocean electrolyzing water
to make H2 (an then any hydride of choice) are practical ... possibly
even economically.
The problem is in organizing a way to:
1) store,
2) distribute,
3) USE
the H2.  Fuel Cells are not really real  (or not really ready).
Also (and this is a big problem) the present energy industry has no
to accommodate (or compete with) a new energy source."

Hope this helps!

Best Regards,
Subject: Re: Alternative energy - wind turbines - hydrogen fuel - fuel cells.
From: micke-ga on 24 Apr 2002 06:18 PDT
I found this great site for Energy information.

Global Energy Marketplace.

In This powerful, on-line, searchable database of more than 2500 energy 
efficiency and renewable energy. You will find highly useful case studies, 
reports, publications, economic analyses, product directories, discussion 
groups, country profiles, mitigation assessments, and other beneficial 

It's awesome.

Personaly I think Fuel-cells will be used in 50% of the cars before year 2015.
And that we need to consider using vertical wind-generators.
And we also got a great resource in the Tide. Water rasing and falling 
constantly and timed like a clock. Tide-generators are perfect in many reasons.
Subject: Re: Alternative energy - wind turbines - hydrogen fuel - fuel cells.
From: darren-ga on 24 Apr 2002 08:03 PDT
Hand in hand with the generation alternatives are the requirements for
energy storage. Obviously we don't schedule the wind. Hydrogen can be
and stored until needed. Fuel cells can also supply power when needed.
The real question is can extra money speed the developmental process.
cannot be certain.

Both fuel cells and hydrogen are still on a curve to reach acceptable
commercial pricing for widespread use. Wind turbines continue to be
used in farms
to supply power to the grid albeit in locations with the requisite
wind. One of the more promising technologies is the flywheel battery.
These are already
commercially available but at costs that make sense only for certain
industries like telecommunications. The flywheel battery has the
potential to
facilitate a widespread distributed power capability in our country
that incidently would make interruption of power by hostile act
extremely difficult. The
flywheel battery solves the energy storage difficulties associated
with solar, wind and small scale hydo power.

Since several states already provide tax credits for alternative
energy projects, a corresponding credit from the federal government
that would drastically
shorten the payback period might be the fastest way to encourage
alternative energy projects to approach energy independence. Even
Sheik Yemani the
ex-head of OPEC has said that the days of oil are limited. It's only a
matter of time and tax policy can play a large part.

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