Fuel cells for home electric?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by EricG, Nov 14, 2004.

  1. EricG

    EricG Well-Known Member

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    The fuel cell technology has been "coming soon" for several years now. I did a google search and found some research on automakers looking at using them. Does anybody know when they are expected to be available for home electric generation use? Looking at some nice, accessable, but off grid land has me wondering.

    Thanks.

    Eric
     
  2. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Europe's going to get them before we do because of beaurocracy. I hear it will be 10 years for home models to go on sale here in the US. Some big companies are placing test units, but you can't sign up. There is some training beginning for electrician types so they will know how to install and service them. Maybe when gas gets above 5$ a gallon more pressure will cause the feds to speed it up. You can get industrial units now.
     

  3. BobBoyce

    BobBoyce Well-Known Member

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    Maybe it's just me, but I just can't see spending all that money for a fuel cell system, only to have to keep feeding it with ever more expensive fossil fuel. Bite the bullet and go microhydro, wind, solar, ect, depending on what works for that location. Renewable energy systems work.

    Bob
     
  4. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Bob, try this search site for some information. You are mistaken about fuel cells. A good example of a future system would be a small solar panel to hydrolize water into oxygen and hydrogen hooked to the fuel cell which would produce an amazing amount of heat and electricity on about a quart of water each day. The fuel cell in your car will run on water also.

    http://web.ask.com/web?q=hydrogen+fuel+cells&qsrc=0&o=0
     
  5. Windy in Kansas

    Windy in Kansas In Remembrance

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    I gave up on ever owning a fuel cell when I read that the manufacturers were teaming up with current utility companies to install and maintain them, and giving them exclusive rights.

    From what I have read those being produced are going to corporations and businesses and the US Government, with none being sold to individual home owners.

    Seems to me another great idea that became worthless to the average homeowner.

    Where is Tesla when you need him? Why doesn't an electrical engineer resurect some of his patents, bring them back to working status and proceed from there. Electricity from the "ether" is free and Tesla seemed to be able to gather it in usable quantities.
     
  6. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    It was a consortium of natural gas companies that funded research to take technology developed for the space program and adapt it for industrial and home use. I, like you, am disappointed on how it is being offered. It may never be available to off the grid types. However, my understanding is the utility company will buy back the excess energy which will lower the utilities dependence of fossil fuel. I bet, after the technology is out there for awhile, it will gradually get to those without existing electrical services.
     
  7. Windy in Kansas

    Windy in Kansas In Remembrance

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    I wasn't aware of the research funding issues you presented.

    I would like to have one of the Stirling engine powered generators that are produced in New Zealand. While they certainly require a fuel source at least I wouldn't need to be hooked to the grid. I wouldn't mind the grid if there weren't those blasted fees just to have a meter. I consider electricity a good bargain if you really think about it. For less than a dollar a day I can use my computer, cook, watch television, have lights at my fingertip command, and have safety from an outdoor yardlight. Yup, rather cheap if you really think about it. Oh, and of course I save my hands from pounding clothes on a rock or using a washboard.

    Still------
     
  8. Blu3duk

    Blu3duk Well-Known Member

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    Home production of hydrogen is VERY easy, very inexpensive, and depending upon the ability of the indivual to scrounge up parts and pieces from salvage yards and yard sales and such will determine what the final capital outlay for a unit is gonna run them.

    A friend from NewYork was just visiting last month and told me of a fella in Iowa that was about 80 some years wise, who had his entire homestead running by producing hydrogen. He has/had 2 Jacobs windgenerators for catching the wind and splitting water into the hyrdogen [H2] and Oxygen, used an ordinary air compressor to pump the H2 into a propane holding tank at about 100 psi, when he needed more juice than his wind sets were producing the hydrogen fueled a genset. His vehicles were also 100% hydrogen operated..... I have been promised pictures of everything and am awaiting his return to his home in NY state so he can email them to me. And all this was in operation in 1991 and before, So it is nothing new, and in fact the Germans patent on electrolisis goes back in time to the mid 1800's.

    In 1983 an 18 year old kid who played in a heavy Metal band converted a 1979 Cadillac to 100% hydrogen in California, Carl Cella.... he later went to prison for murder but his plans are out there on the net if somewhat sketchy in places.

    Future Horizons has sets of plans for building fuel from water aperatuses including the Carls works [ i read it over the weekend] and also a Cold Fusion hydrongen generator that also incorpoarates steam and a 671 jimmy diesel blower for the turbine..... but a person really has to want to build something, not have someone else do it for them and reap the rewards..... it will work and does work and it is Tesla's ideas taken a step farther than previously wqritten of, whether or not Nikkola tesla actually did it this way, no one knows.

    Lindsay Books also has a book on converting your automobile to hydrogen for $25 plus postage i recently acquired.... very interesting reading material as well, and gives information that takes away a whole bunch of Myths about Hydrogen production.

    Now should a person start producing their own power using a hydrogen plant, the new administration of Homeland security may construe you as a terrorist producing hygrogen bomb material..... unlikely but possible to keep your nieghbor from becoming free of the system too.

    I used to think bio mass fuel was the way to go, but it has limits, and is labor intensive at times, Hydrogen production costs a little more in effort in the begining, but in the end will be and can be the one thing that sets people free.

    When the Almighty has His kingdom setup and running on earth, it will use Hydrogen power more than likely.

    William
     
  9. Don Armstrong

    Don Armstrong In Remembrance

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    Basically, fuel cells for domestic use are not-yet and not-cheap.

    The best bet for off-grid electric - best value-for-money - at this stage is plain old 12 Volt, in small doses. It can't do everything, but it can do so much these days that a hybrid system including 12V becomes very feasible. You don't need nearly as big a battery-bank as you used to do, if you don't try and run everything off 12V.

    Mini solar arrays can recharge batteries. Get an auto-electrician to wire a second 12V battery into your vehicle to recharge it when you've got to drive anywhere. It's a standard option with some towing setups. It's not hard to find plans, or just cobble it up yourself, to make a primitive windmill driving an auto alternator or generator to charge a 12V battery as well.

    You can buy nice laptop or notebook computers which will run off an external 12V connection - heck, some of the wall-warts that some of them come with are just that. Same can be said of TVs and even small fridges made for camping. Lighting - there are some VERY efficient micro-fluorescent lights that run off 12V. Alternatively, there are even more efficient LEDs these days. Just wire them into your home.

    You CAN get small DC to AC convertors which will supply small amounts of AC for small appliances used for brief perionds of time. The cheap versions of these things deliver poor-quality power - make sure the appliances you intend to use can handle the power they will supply.

    There are just a few things that need power the 12V system can't supply readily.

    One is hot water. Solve that with a dual solar hot-water system that also takes heat from your kitchen stove, furnace or heater. If the weather's hot you've got solar hot water. If it's not you're burning something.

    Another is refrigeration. Propane fridges aren't cheap to buy, but they can be a lot cheaper than putting in grid electricity . They're not too bad to run, provided you can get gas delivered or carry it in in large cylinders.

    Last I can think of is an array of things you want to run for an hour or two here or there. Get a generator. They're not that expensive. It won't kill you to run the generator while you want to use power tools in a home workshop occasionally. Do the laundry and vacuuming at the same time, or run the generator an hour a week for them. You could get compressed-air tools and run an internal-combusion-powered air compressor if you've got longer-term workshop requirements.
     
  10. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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    I would bet my bottom dollar the only fuel cell we will see mass produced is going to in some form use fossil fuels.The energy companies will see to it.They wont give up their trillions of dollars without a fight.
    BooBoo
     
  11. electronrider

    electronrider Well-Known Member

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    Here in Indiana, one of the power companies ( NIPSCO) is experimenting with a home fuel cell. Supposedly it will completely power the house when they release it for general use, No idea how long that will take. I would immagine that we've got a lot of pressure from the coal,petroleum, and liquified gas people to keep this technology "in testing" for quite sometime. At least until they can get all the rights bought up so they can stay rich.
     
  12. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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    "In the coming days, EnergyUSA will announce plans to install MOSAIC's first prototype in a new home planned for construction this summer, Abcouwer said, with full-scale production expected by 2002.

    "This in-home demonstration and the selection of a general manager are part of an aggressive development plan for distributed generation and combined heat and power- and fuel cells in particular," Abcouwer said. In addition to being an equity partner in MOSAIC, EnergyUSA will participate in the marketing and distribution of the fuel cell-based energy package.

    Fuel cell systems using :eek: "NATURAL GAS" :eek: can generate enough power to meet the electricity needs of a household on a stand-alone basis or can be used in conjunction with traditional electric service. In addition, through heat recovery, these systems can also supply a significant portion of the hot water and heating needs of the home."

    SOOOO>>>>Maybe less pollution,or more efficient,but fossil fueled non the less.Doesnt work for me,its just more of the same.Use the sun,best power source ever invented,IMHO.
    BooBoo
     
  13. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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    Bob said it all in a nutshell.
    BooBoo
     
  14. WisJim

    WisJim Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The best use of fuel cell technology is not in cars, etc., but in homes or businesses, used in conjunction with solar electric or wind. It is stupid of the car companies to be promoting fuel cell/hydrogen use in cars if the hydrogen is coming from fossil fuels. Much better is to produce hydrogen by your own equipment from PVs or wind or small hydro, store some for use in a fuel cell to provide power when it isn't sunny or windy, instead of having a lead-acid battery system.
    I'd be glad to have some kind of hydrogen generator/fuel cell system instead of my big bank of lead acid batteries IF it was comparable in cost and had a long life (at least 20+ years, like my batteries).

    Two or three years ago I was at an industrial trade show, and the Coleman company had a small (maybe 2 to 5KW) fuel cell/electrical generator set up, about the physical size of a similar gas-engine powered generator, that was designed to use hydrogen. At the time, the salesman said it would be available for purchase very soon (this was a couple of years ago.) I haven't heard any more about it. They were hoping to sell it to people/companies who would otherwise have a small propane or gas engine powered generator or other small generating system, mostly industrial users, such as remote telecommunications set ups.

    Jim
     
  15. BobBoyce

    BobBoyce Well-Known Member

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    gobug, I wasn't referring to electrolysis generated hydrogen being used in fuel cell systems. I was talking about the systems that crack fossil fuels for the hydrogen, then use that hydrogen + oxygen from the air to generate electricity. Those are the kinds of systems that are being pushed really hard to bring to market. I'm all for RE generated hydrogen, but that is not what the energy companies seem to want. Their version of the "hydrogen economy" will have us tethered to fossile fuels until there is none left.

    Bob
     
  16. EricG

    EricG Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for all the input. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one aware of this technology and frustrated with it's lack off progress for the "off grider".

    Unfortunately I live in Alaska which makes solar not very useful for about 1/2 the year. The land I'm looking at won't support wind and is flat as a pancake which doesn't do much for hydro. Power co. gets about $15 a foot to extend lines and that adds up fast. Especially when your talking 1000's of feet.

    Well i'll just keep looking for land that is possible for wind or hydro or within reach of the grid. Maybe someday fuel cells will come around.

    Eric
     
  17. BobBoyce

    BobBoyce Well-Known Member

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    EricG, I didn't even notice you're in alaska. With everything there being so expensive, I would imagine that puts lots of things out of financial reach. I was going to suggest geothermal, which works pretty much anywhere. You just have to find someone that can drill you a deep enough hole. I'm sure the expense would be quite high there though. Who knows, maybe you'll hit oil :haha:

    Bob
     
  18. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The peak oil posting in this forum is not revolutionary thinking. The consortium of public service companies that funded the research for fuel cells were fully aware of the rapidly approaching end to fossil fuel. I believe the only reason propane cells will be first is the wide distribution network already in place.

    I like solar as well, but I think batteries and low output are serious limitations, not to mention the problems in the North.

    Still, I'm not holding my breath for fuel cells. If the cost of oil rises quickly enough, everything including solar components are going to skyrocket in price. I can't wait for fuel cells.

    While I live in the city teathered to the grid now, I am preparing my mountain property for future homesteading. Ithink hydrogen as posted by Blu3duk definitely is worth investigating.
     
  19. EricG

    EricG Well-Known Member

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    Bob,

    Theres a fairly good chance of hitting coal bed methane gas around here. Might be my own source of gas for a fuel cell :D Most things tend to be expensive, especially if they're heavy and have to be shipped..like batteries, and well casing, and power line cable etc..The darkness is a bummer for solar in the winter. I think it would work great for the 5-6 months of summer but wouln't do much good in the dark winter. Maybe solar for summer and a generator in winter...

    That land was withing walking distance of some of the finest king salmon fishing in this aprt of the state, maybe distilled fish oil for lights :p

    Thanks for the help.

    Eric
     
  20. pigneeder

    pigneeder New Member

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