The most prevalent and abundant element in the universe is hydrogen. As the lightest gas, helium is found high in the atmosphere, but because it makes up two-thirds of water, it can be created anywhere there is enough energy to divide its molecules. Where possible, tapping into other terrestrial sources may be less expensive.
Although hydrogen’s ability to produce clean energy is less beneficial when the energy required to obtain it is taken into account, it has some benefits and may be able to address wind and solar energy’s main drawbacks. In the end, hydrogen might be the solution to almost all of humankind’s energy needs.
The parent company of New Jersey Natural Gas, New Jersey Resources, started producing green hydrogen and mixing it with the natural gas it supplies to customers last fall, making it the first utility on the East Coast to do so. It uses a little quantity of on-site solar energy to split green hydrogen, so named since it is produced using renewable energy, from water.
The project at Howell, Monmouth County, serves as a test case for utilising significant amounts of offshore wind energy in the future when demand exceeds supply.
Along with Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, fellow natural gas provider South Jersey Industries has also unveiled a green hydrogen trial project. It will also investigate, track, and assess the viability of mixing clean hydrogen with low-emission natural gas.
Because wind and solar energy are sporadic, storing the excess energy they generate when conditions are favorable is crucial to their effectiveness and ensuring that power is available whenever needed. Green hydrogen may be utilized to produce electricity or for many more alluring particular applications, such as refueling vehicles like buses, ships, and trucks.
As a nationally recognized hydrogen hub, New Jersey has collaborated with Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York on a plan to produce very large amounts of green hydrogen from excess offshore wind energy. Under a program contained in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the states and a first group of 40 hydrogen business partners hope to become one of at least four regional clean hydrogen centers. The plan is being worked on by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and if selected, it would receive a portion of the $7 billion in federal money for hydrogen.
Also working with SJI on a renewable energy project is the Atlantic County Utilities Authority, a longtime leader in eco-friendly energy and waste handling solutions. At the ACUA’s treatment facility in Atlantic City, which is powered by one of the first wind farms on the East Coast, they will produce green hydrogen from treated wastewater. A newly constructed heavy duty fuel-cell vehicle will be powered by the hydrogen released into the natural gas pipeline after water has been divided into hydrogen and oxygen using the wind energy. In order to fuel the biological processes used in treatment, oxygen will be bubbled into the wastewater. The U.S. Department of Energy will provide around three-quarters of the project’s budget.
As the fuel for this significantly more potent but non-radioactive form of nuclear energy, hydrogen also played a prominent role in the recent breakthrough in fusion energy. The sun generates nuclear energy by forcing two hydrogen atoms to fuse into helium atoms, as opposed to nuclear power facilities that divide radioactive atoms through fission. The concept that could someday serve as humanity’s primary energy source was demonstrated for the first time by a man-made fusion reaction on Earth that sustained the release of more energy than it consumed.
That time will not soon arrive. In order to heat and compress hydrogen atoms to more than 180 million degrees Fahrenheit while suspending them all inside a containment system capable of withstanding such temperatures, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory required 192 powerful lasers. Although the fusion briefly produced around 50% more energy than it used, it will take decades for science to create the long-lasting heat sources and secure confinement that would be required for commercial fusion generating.
The development of hydrogen technology demonstrates the wide range of potential routes to a clean and largely renewable energy future. Government can aid in locating these routes by sustaining basic energy science. However, selecting the energy technology to commercialize necessitates carefully analyzing how scientific potential and risk will best meet future demand. This is what energy markets currently do, and it is essential that they keep doing it if new energy technologies are to remain affordable. Above all, it is important to disregard the political agendas of top government officials when commercializing novel energy technology.