Storing solar power

One of the big stumbling blocks to widespread solar (besides its current high cost), is the ability to store power for use at night or cloudy days.  Daniel Nocera, a professor of chemistry at MIT, has found an effective way to use sunlight to extract hydrogen from water.

This is lab scale only so far.  The big question is how well does this scale up?

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4 Responses

  1. Hydrogen has some other problems besides generation – namely storage. The few SolarH2 energy independent homes I know of used banks of massive propane tanks(like 1000 gallons) to store enough hydrogen to make the house energy independent. This isn’t really useful for the average suburban homeowner. At the industrial level, sealed mines at low(less than 5 PSI) have been used, but that still isn’t enough storage for the likes of a major city.

    If it does pan out, I don’t think it will spurn individual users, but rather large scale usage, which won’t bother with PV panels – more likely Stirling method, or even the more interestingly, solar chimneys.

  2. Storing hydrogen is a known problem. It’s slippery stuff. It will just leak out of a tank that will hold gasoline (or ammonia) just fine over time.

    Scaling up in this case isn’t necessarily scaling up to industrial levels. There are questions if this can scale up to an individual home level.

    I still view early use of this as not taking an entire house off the grid, but for taking a part of the electric use off the grid. I just need a hydrogen tank large enough, and that won’t leak too much for my purpose of charging a plug in hybrid over night.

    Solar electric panels still need to be cheaper as well, but this a possible good step in a needed direction.

  3. So your talking about a home fueling station? That’s easy – somebodys already built one. It’s basically an electrolyzer hooked up to a storage tank(usually one of those small tanks that use Metal halides), hooked to a relatively small PV array.

    It’s off the shelf technology now, it’s just not cheap.

  4. You’ve hit the nail on the head. It’s not cheap. That what research like this fellow at MIT is doing is for. Solar electric power has to be cheaper before it will be used widely enough to make a difference.

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