Thursday, March 1, 2007

More build your own projects: Backyard Fuel Cell

Seems there are more and more of these available every day.
This would be one I'd love to have someday.

Backyard Fuel Cell
"In 2004, they started rigging up a Rube Goldberg contraption that uses solar panels and electrolyzers to generate hydrogen and allows Web-based monitoring of its proton-exchange-membrane fuel cell. In late 2006, a bemused but impressed inspector granted state approval. Now the system, which they built for around $50,000, taps any surplus solar electricity to fill a 500-gallon hydrogen fuel tank, enough reserve for about 14 days’ worth of power (a second tank can be added to double that capacity). Friend thinks of the setup as sort of a TiVo for energy — bank hydrogen during the summer, then consume as it’s needed."

Set up and run a hydrogen-fueled house in 5 easy steps.
1) GENERATE SOLAR POWER. Jason Lerner, an alternative-energy expert and family friend, installed the home’s photo­voltaic panels (cost: around $13,400) in the front yard. The cells pump out 1.6 kW during the sunniest hours of the day, which is just under a typical load for the Friend family.
2) TURN WATER INTO H AND O. Two laboratory-grade electrolyzers (Hogen GC 600 units at $7,900 each) run on solar electricity and water to make 0.3 gallon of hydrogen per minute, which is then forced into a steel tank at 200 psi. A second tank may be added to double the capacity to a month’s worth of power.
3) LEARN TO PLUMB FOR H. High-end stainless steel tubing prevents the plumbing from corroding. (Hydrogen ions are the active ingredient in acid.) A blast of nitrogen can be used to remove the air from an empty 500-gallon propane tank, which can then be carefully filled with home-brewed hydrogen.
4) TURN H AND O BACK INTO H2O. A 148-pound, 48-volt fuel cell combines hydrogen with the oxygen in air to charge the battery bank. An inverter converts the DC electricity to AC for the home’s 110-volt system. Find this gear at The builders caution that these products aren’t perfect.
5) AUTOMATE AND MONITOR. The crew connected system switches to relays controlled by battery voltage. After 20 minutes sans sun, the electro­lyzers shut down, and the house is powered by the fuel cell. A satellite link transmits reports on voltage and tank capacity, and a hydrogen sniffer checks for leaks.

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