Windhunter: Mid-oceanic hydrogen generation


Instead of generating electricity offshore then having to somehow get it to shore, just generate hydrogen from water instead. Windhunter wants to build a prototype.

Tip: Ecogeek


  1. Can anybody read the FAQ on the listed site and tell me what the net profit or loss is for producing hydrogen? This looks like a gee-whiz project of the sort that Tom Friedman would find delightful, and the lack of any serioius analysis makes me wonder.

    Note that buried deep in the FAQ is the fact that hydrogen has much less energy output per unit than does natural gas, something we discussed on the topic of possible use of wood to heat homes in Connecticutt; the FAQ lists it as 1/3 of that of natural gas.

    FWIW, I’m REALLY tired of continuing to read that hydrogen gas is non-polluting. Any combustion technology is inherently polluting because you can’t get 100% combustion. Just as existing gasoline and natural-gas powered cars produce NOx, so will hydrogen-powered cars. I’d like to see whether they will also produce noticeable quantities of hydrogen peroxide, which will NOT be pleasant in gaseous form. Assuming that a comustion engine powered by hydrogen produces the same number of NOx per moles burned as natural gas, realize that that means we’ll be producing three times as much NOx as we do now. That may be an acceptable tradeoff, since the problems we have with NOx is that the cars also emit unburned hydrocarbons, which is like providing chicken soup to bacteria: the NOx can then spawn some really nasty products. However, even without major hydrocarbons being produced or reduced, there will still be some. Areas like Connecticutt which are green and lush and wooded (think the entire area to the east of the Mississippi) has plenty of natural hydrocarbons floating around. How many compared to those produced through the internal-combustion engine? Beats me. As Noam Chomsky says, you can look it up.

    Note that this plan is an odd reversal of the typical plan of burning natural gas in turbines to produce electricity for transmission. Here, the ships presumably generate electricity which, because it cannot be stored, has to be converted into some storage mechanism through transformation, which here is hydrogen.

    Finally, I don’t have a good sense of whether sea water is appropriate for electrolytic conversion to hydrogen. A review of the desalinization literature would probably provide an answer. I suspect there may be problems. Certainly corrosion and replacement of the electrolytic chambers will be a serious problem and cost for which there’s no recognition in the simplistic FAQ. You can probably avoid it by using fiberglass, but then collecting and purifying the gas becomes an issue. As with all things in thermodynamics, there’s no free lunch (sometimes reworded as “whatever you try to do with energy conversion, you’re screwed”).

    I must say that this FAQ reminds me of a teenager at the time of cold fusion who thought she could design a spaceship to travel the stars using cold fusion. When I asked about propulsion, I got a blank look, since she had no clue that the energy generated had to DO something to make the ship move!

  2. A recent article on a hydrogen powered home (linked from my blog but no longer available) said that in converting electrity to H2 and back (using fuel cell technology), there is a 50% loss. However, the upside is, you can use it when and where you want to. One presumes that if the generation equipment was efficient enough, it might be a fair trade. But like Joe, I have my doubts.

    BTW, why would you run a car on H2 combustion rather than fuel cell?

  3. I also wonder how a ship like this could stay upright in rough seas. Their website said, they’d get ship designers to figure it out. Hmmm…

  4. And you saw the stats that the turbine structure would be 1400 feet high? Which is what, about 100 stories? In the ocean? ‘Bout a quarter mile-plus up.

    Sounded like it’s about as well thought-out as a Bush administration plan for….well, take your pick. No competence or experience necessary; apply within.

  5. I *think* they must have meant 140 feet, because 1400 would be ludicrous. Even 140 could be dicey.

    Yeah, seems a bit of a pipe dream, doesn’t it?

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