Environmental and Sustainability issues such as ecosystem degradation, global climate change, ozone layer depletion, acid rain, and the spread of pollutants play a major role in shaping our future. Contemporary governments, policy-makers, and societies have been putting elevated efforts to tackle and combat these challenges. Potential solutions to these problems span around reducing harmful pollutant emissions. Many stated concerns are frequently intertwined with the production, transformation, and use of energy. Sustainable development requires a continuous supply of clean and affordable energy resources that do not cause negative societal impacts, therefore particular emphasis has been made on developing green alternatives. Hydrogen is one of the latter and is considered to be one of the most effective solutions to environmental and sustainability affairs.
What is Hydrogen?
Hydrogen is the simplest element on earth. It is an energy carrier that can store and deliver energy in an easily usable form. Earth is abundant in hydrogen as an element; However, it can’t exist as a separate form of matter, rather it is combined with other elements. It can be found in water, natural gas, or biomass. As of today, Hydrogen is primarily applied in industrial processes, and only a small fraction of it is used to carry and distribute the energy. This tendency is highly likely to change soon, as hydrogen has enticed a lot of attention from leading developed countries. E.g. Germany already has its first hydrogen-fueled train on tracks.
The Applications of Hydrogen
Hydrogen is Eco-friendly and versatile, producing only water and heat as a byproduct during combustion. While using hydrogen we could virtually achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Hydrogen can boost renewable electricity market growth and broaden the reach of renewable solutions. The Required infrastructure is highly scalable, can regulate supply and distribution-related issues, and minimize wastage. E.g. At wind and solar energy sites, electrolysis can be performed using excess electricity not supplied to the grids. As a result, we can split water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen and store the latter for future use.
Hydrogen can be pumped in the natural gas grid, reconverted into electricity through fuel cells, used as a transport fuel, or clean-burning gas. It can successfully be applied in metallurgical plants, refineries, or electrical factories that are looking for green solutions.
What are the high Hurdles for Hydrogen?
- High Cost – While readily available, hydrogen is deemed to be very expensive. It takes longer to be separated from other elements and the process itself is quite complex. With the current level of technological development, it cannot be a fuel of choice for everyone;
- Complex to be stored – it cannot be easily stored or transported unlike oil, coal or other fossil fuels;
- Infrastructure – it would be extremely difficult and costly to redesign the current infrastructure to support hydrogen as fuel;
- Safety Concerns – as hydrogen is highly flammable producing, distributing, and using it carries a great number of risks;
- Dependent on Fossil Fuels – even though the hydrogen itself is renewable and eco-friendly to be used, other renewable sources are required to separate it from other elements.
Future Perspectives of Hydrogen
Acknowledging the drawbacks of switching to Hydrogen-Fueled Energy systems and the current level of technological advancements, it would be wiser to consider the use of hydrogen selectively. The major problem with hydrogen applications lies in the scope required, not the idea itself. Where hydrogen gives an option to decarbonize extremely difficult energy systems that can’t be electrified it could successfully be employed. On the mass scale, it’s more astute to assume that the electrification of existing systems is a more feasible and cost-effective green solution for current environmental challenges.
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