Tom Brown Profile picture
17 Oct, 11 tweets, 5 min read
Last thread on history of renewables + hydrogen (promise):


- Idea of using electrolysis of water & storing hydrogen is almost as old as electrolysis (1789)

- Already a lively debate in *1863* about combining variable renewables with electrolytic hydrogen to replace coal
The above quotation is from Jevons' (he of paradox fame) marvellous 1865 treatise "The Coal Question":…

(h/t @physicspod)

and refers to an exchange in The Times of London in 1863, started by this letter on page 10 of the 2nd Sep 1863 edition:
G.A. Keyworth of Hastings followed up a few days on 16th Sep 1863 later with an elaboration of his ideas:
It was poo-pooed a few days later on 18th Sep later by some sceptics, with Q reported by Jevons to be "Dr. Percy of the School of Mines" (OMG did I uncover the identity of Q?!):
Already in 1840 the "alternate decomposition and recomposition of water" was talked up in Dr. Dionysius Lardner's "The Steam Engine Explained and Illustrated" as something on "every mind":……
Jevons poured cold water on all this electricity hype in his 1865 book:

"Electricity, in short, is to the present age what the perpetual motion was to an age not far removed"…
The ideas resurfaced in the 1890s in Denmark (h/t @ruth_mottram) with Poul la Cour's experiments to
tame the wind with electrolysis:…
And in fairly full/modern form in J.B.S. Haldane's Daedalus essay in 1923:

So why did it never take off? In a way it did: there was a rash of 100+ MW electrolysis projects starting in the late 1920s using hydroelectric power to make green ammonia:

But they were out-competed in the end by fossil ammonia and other demands for electric power.

This was purely a matter of economics: electrolysis of water can only compete if there is abundant low cost power.
With abundant low-cost wind and solar power coming our way, hydrogen may return for sectors unreachable by a combination of efficiency measures and direct electrification as we decarbonise the economy.

It's been a long road!


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More from @nworbmot

31 Jul
Despite the current hype, there's nothing new about electrolytic hydrogen.

- 100 MW electrolysers since late 1920s for fertiliser and heavy water

- 100 GWh salt cavern storage since 1960s

- 4500 km hydrogen pipelines today

What was missing was abundant low cost power.
From 1920s-1970s, 100+ MW water electrolysers were built across world to meet demand for ammonia for fertiliser.

Prerequisite: cheap power from hydro dams.

All were dismantled as other power demand grew and fossil gas became available to make ammonia.…
Electrolysis was also the means of making heavy water (D2O), a neutron moderator, from its discovery in the 1930s until the GS process replaced it in the mid-1940s.

Heavy water was crucial for making the atomic bomb.

This made electrolysis of great military importance in WWII.
Read 9 tweets
17 Feb
"wind and solar will always cannibalize their own market revenue"

"market value decline is an inevitable consequence of variability"

"market integration of wind and solar is impossible"


THREAD! (1/infinity)
...based on a preprint (not through peer review yet) by Lina Reichenberg of @chalmersuniv and me:

@flexibledragnet's pithy summary:

"VRE cannibalisation is a policy artefact, not a physical system constraint"
Short version:

Some studies show that average revenues for wind and solar go down with rising share.

We show that the studies have an implicit assumption that variable renewable energy (VRE) are forced into the system, which depresses prices and their own market value (MV).
Read 29 tweets
5 Dec 19
Build your own clean energy system!

- wind, solar, storage + others optimized live while you wait

- works for any region in the world

- you choose your own technology assumptions

thread with examples

reward at end
This toy model meets a constant demand over a year of weather data

The default setting is to use wind, solar, batteries and hydrogen storage only; further technologies can be added, as can H2 demand (for heavy transport and industry)
In this example for a 100 MW demand in Germany, when wind (blue) and solar (yellow) generation exceed demand (black line), electricity is stored (negative values) in batteries (grey) or used to electrolyse water to hydrogen (cyan), which is then stored underground
Read 24 tweets
26 Nov 19
In Oct 2019 @Equinor and @OpenGridEurope presented a feasibility study to produce blue hydrogen in Germany (from natural gas with CCS)

Aims for blue H2 at a cost of 2-3 EUR/kg (50-80 EUR/MWh), competitive at a CO2 price of 50-70 EUR/tCO2

Short thread…
H2morrow would supply industry with H2 in west of Germany (NRW), importing natural gas from Norway.

Uses autothermal reforming (ATR) to produce H2. CO2 is captured, liquified, then shipped on Rhine down to Rotterdam and onwards to Norway, where it will be sequestered offshore.
Aim is to do further technical studies in coming years, and have the project operational by 2030.
Read 10 tweets
6 Sep 19
Agrivoltaics: combining solar and agriculture on same land can be win-win, especially in dry areas

reduced temp => better PV efficiency

more shade => less water loss, higher agri yields (3x more chiltepin peppers!)…
This is based on results from a new paper by US-based researchers in Nature Sustainability (google sci-hub if you have the temerity to expect access to publicly-funded research)…
This confirms results seen by @FraunhoferISE researchers in German experiments…
Read 4 tweets
23 Jun 19
Who came up with the first coherent plan to use renewables to cover all our energy needs?

My money is on Bent Sørensen, who wrote these two ground-breaking papers in the 1970s:… (1975)… (1978)

He deserves more credit.

By "coherent" I mean that it covers all energy sectors (electricity, heating, transport, industry) and it's technically, economically and socially viable. In particular, it considers the short- and long-term balancing needed to deal with the variability of wind and solar.
The first paper looks at the big picture for Denmark: what are the feasible energy potentials?

Hydro and geothermal are limited, so it focuses instead on wind and solar.

His 1975 plan to use "continuous" (i.e. versus finite fossil) energy sources tackles the four major sectors:
Read 21 tweets

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