Over the years I’ve talked about renewable energy methods for creating hydrogen such as the use of wind, solar and geothermal energy and even wave and ocean power. Upon reading an article that validates my belief that there is at least a partial hydrogen infrastructure already in place, I also realized that I’ve neglected talking about one important type of renewable energy source, which is hydroelectric.
Now, hydroelectric power is not just about large dams such as those in upstate New York (Niagara Falls) or out west (Hoover Dam), but rather hydroelectric power encompasses small to large turbines including also micro, small-scale and run-of-the-river.
In fact 33 of our 50 states use some form of hydroelectric power to generate electricity from flowing water. The idea is that flowing water turns turbines, which in turn spin generators that create electricity, which in turn electrolyze water to create hydrogen. When hydrogen is burned inside a fuel cell vehicle it turns back into water.
Micro hydro usually involves small turbines used on creeks and river that generate between one kilowatt and one megawatt of electricity These could be used in rural settings to generate electricity and hydrogen for cars.
Small hydroelectric generators have the capacity of up to 20 megawatts and can also be used in rural settings that have either larger creeks and rivers or faster water flow. These can also be used to generate both electricity and hydrogen.
Run-of-the-river hydroelectric power are usually commercial size and grade power generators. The turbines sit on the bottom of larger rivers and the blades spin to produce electricity. The run-of-the-river turbines generally do not disrupt the flow of the river or other activities such as fish migration like a dam system would.
Hydroelectric dams are the largest providers of hydroelectric power. A couple of years ago I talked about how New York had decided to tap into the power of Niagara Falls in order to produce hydrogen. To me this is a natural coupling of resources since there is an overabundance of both water and electricity in one place, so creating hydrogen is the natural next step.