Fuel Cell Uses Wind or PV to Make Hydrogen on the Spot

A Canadian company says its fuel cell can be energized by wind or solar photovoltaic sources, and can split water into its component gasses for multiple needs.

ORILLIA, Ontario, CA, 2001-05-23 <SolarAccess.com> Greenvolt Power Corp. says its Refcell(TM) reverse fuel cell uses less energy to produce hydrogen and oxygen from water, and also avoids the need for costly and inefficient transport of hydrogen gas. While most fuel cells catalytically combine hydrogen and oxygen into water to generate electricity, the Orillia firm claims that its unit separates the two gasses, essentially releasing them for other purposes. It says the Refcell can also supply the hydrogen needed to fuel other fuel cells. “We’re very pleased that the Bush government has recognized the value of hydrogen as an ecologically convenient and efficient fuel,” says president and CEO Thomas Faul, referring to the federal energy plan in the United States that points to a near-future need for a hydrogen economy. The U.S. proposal mentions the possible use of hydrogen in furnaces, as well as fuel for all major modes of transport, and suggests tax breaks for buyers of fuel cell-powered and hybrid gas-electric vehicles. The attention to hydrogen “is a great boon to the whole question of reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and we are very encouraged that the government is considering supporting such activities,” adds Faul. “After studying a number of hydrogen- and oxygen-producing technologies, we believe we have settled on the best solution.” Typically, hydrogen and oxygen are electrically separated from water with water-alkali electrolyzer devices. The Greenvolt unit requires 20 percent less electrical energy and features a system weight and bulk that is up to nine times smaller than equivalent devices. In addition to energy savings, the explosion-proof Refcell boasts long-term durability while lowering generating costs and requiring substantially less in system capital, explains Faul. Water produced in the fuel cell is re-used by the Refcell, and both gasses can be delivered to storage pressure vessels at up to 3,000 psi without the need for compressors. “It is less costly, and it is proven, compact, light, competitively priced — and it is available now,” he adds. The fuel cell has broad applicability and can be provide a high purity supply of oxygen for laboratory research, hospitals, altitude chambers, space vehicles and submersibles. It can also divide hydrogen isotopes to remove deuterium and hyson out of cooling circuits of nuclear reactors. It can also store surplus energy generated by PV solar panels or wind generators.

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