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A Power Grid for the Hydrogen Economy (Scientific American)

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jpak Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-10-06 10:56 AM
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A Power Grid for the Hydrogen Economy (Scientific American)

On the afternoon of August 14, 2003, electricity failed to arrive in New York City, plunging the eight million inhabitants of the Big Apple--along with 40 million other people throughout the northeastern U.S. and Ontario--into a tense night of darkness. After one power plant in Ohio had shut down, elevated power loads overheated high-voltage lines, which sagged into trees and short-circuited. Like toppling dominoes, the failures cascaded through the electrical grid, knocking 265 power plants offline and darkening 24,000 square kilometers.

That incident--and an even more extensive blackout that affected 56 million people in Italy and Switzerland a month later--called attention to pervasive problems with modern civilization's vital equivalent of a biological circulatory system, its interconnected electrical networks. In North America the electrical grid has evolved in piecemeal fashion over the past 100 years. Today the more than $1-trillion infrastructure spans the continent with millions of kilometers of wire operating at up to 765,000 volts. Despite its importance, no single organization has control over the operation, maintenance or protection of the grid; the same is true in Europe. Dozens of utilities must cooperate even as they compete to generate and deliver, every second, exactly as much power as customers demand--and no more. The 2003 blackouts raised calls for greater government oversight and spurred the industry to move more quickly, through its Intelli-Grid Consortium and the Grid-Wise program of the U.S. Department of Energy, to create self-healing systems for the grid that may prevent some kinds of outages from cascading. But reliability is not the only challenge--and arguably not even the most important challenge--that the grid faces in the decades ahead.

A more fundamental limitation of the 20th-century grid is that it is poorly suited to handle two 21st-century trends: the relentless growth in demand for electrical energy and the coming transition from fossil-fueled power stations and vehicles to cleaner sources of electricity and transportation fuels. Utilities cannot simply pump more power through existing high-voltage lines by ramping up the voltages and currents. At about one million volts, the electric fields tear insulation off the wires, causing arcs and short circuits. And higher currents will heat the lines, which could then sag dangerously close to trees and structures.

A hydrogen-filled SuperGrid would serve not only as a conduit but also as a vast repository of energy.

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skids Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-10-06 11:15 AM
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1. /me Bangs head on table. Repeatedly. n/t
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Ready4Change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-10-06 06:20 PM
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4. Can I borrow that table?
Lessee. We can:

- Repair an existing grid which, when repaired, will provide power distribution no matter what the generating source,


- We can build something entirely from scratch, at massive expense, that will never work as well as the electrical grid, that will not replace the electrical grid, and will be highly dependent on a few, specialized generating methods.

Nevermind letting me borrow your table. I'll need one all to myself for this.
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Dogmudgeon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 11:49 AM
Response to Reply #4
6. My apartment has a concrete floor
It's under the carpet and the foam they put under the carpet. I've been spending a lot of time down there lately.

Mom thinks I've gone Muslim.

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bananas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-10-06 01:21 PM
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2. high voltage super-conducting cable cooled with liguid hydrogen?
The Hindenberg on steroids.
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hunter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-10-06 01:40 PM
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3. And you thought basic power system failures were fun...

Call before you dig: (800) 227-2600
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htuttle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 07:53 AM
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5. I think I saw this on a Star Trek TNG
Whole planet went up in a flash when their energy conduits ignited.

Doesn't Hydrogen leak no matter what you put it in since the H2 molecule is so small? Wouldn't longer term storage of Hydrogen (or it's energy) suggest a more solid/liquid/at least less volitile medium than the pure gas?

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