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NREL and Xcel Energy Dedicate Wind-Powered Hydrogen Generator

December 14, 2006

DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Xcel Energy dedicated a new system to convert wind power into hydrogen on December 14th. The system, located at NREL's National Wind Technology Center, links two wind turbines to devices called electrolyzers, which pass the electricity through water to split the liquid into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can be stored and used later to generate electricity from either an internal combustion engine turning a generator or from a fuel cell.

A new building houses the electrolyzers and a device to compress the hydrogen for storage; four large, high-tech tanks to store the hydrogen; and a generator run by an engine that burns hydrogen. A nearby control room building houses computers that monitor all the steps of the process. Xcel Energy and NREL are each paying part of the $2 million budget for the two-year project. See the Xcel Energy press release.

While hydrogen produces little or no pollution when converted into useful energy, it can be produced from a wide variety of energy sources, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Today the cheapest and most common source of hydrogen is natural gas, but the conversion process generates air emissions. Wind-to-hydrogen systems could potentially make use of intermittent wind resources to generate hydrogen fuel without producing any air emissions. For more information, see the "Hydrogen Production" page on the DOE Hydrogen Program Web site.