Decision '09
Blog Index


Debate #3
Elusive Water Vapor:
High Altitude Hydrogen Jets, and the Delicate Stratosphere


Debate #2
Green Energy
in the American Southeast

Topics featured in this debate:

Offshore Wind

Concentrated Solar

Hydrogen from Solar Electrolysis

Expert Commentary:

Robert Leitner
South Carolina's Institute for Energy Studies

Nate Blair
National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Jeffrey Nelson Sandia National Laboratories

Fred Humes Education, Training and Research Center at ARC: Hydrogen

Todd Stone
3TIER, Global Renewable Energy Assessment and Forecasting

Erika Hartwig Myers
South Carolina Energy Office

Chris Daetwyler
SC Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance


Debate #1
Biomass from
Poplar Trees


Energy Links:

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

National Renewable Energy Lab

Wind Logics

Garrad Hassan


American Solar Energy Society

United States Council on Green Building (LEED)

National Association of Home Builders

Associated Builders and Contractors

Associated General Contractors

The California Institute of Earth
Art & Architecture

Green Building Funding Opportunities

Database of Incentives

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

South Carolina Energy Office

SC Hydrogen

Nuclear Energy Institute

World Resources Institute

International Renewable Energy Alliance

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership

International Network for Sustainable Energy

World Council for Renewable Energy

International Renewable Energy Agency

Apollo Alliance

Rocky Mountain Institute

Sierra Club

National Association of Electrical Distributors

Edison Electric Institute

Electronic Industries Alliance

Int'l Council on Mining and Metals

Mineral Information Institute

American Institute of Architects

Pellet Fuels Institute

Link to
Government Sites:

White House

Supreme Court

State Dept.

WH Office on Management and Budget

WH Council of Economic Advisers



Dept. of Agriculture



National Solar Thermal Test Facility

Sandia National Laboratories

Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility



Links to Science Organizations:

Union of Concerned Scientists

Federation of American Scientists

The Planetary Society

US Maritime Alliance

Standards Engineering Society

National Fisheries Institute

Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology

American Chemical Society

Chemical & Engineering News

International Congress of Radiology

American Society for Cell Biology

Institution of Engineering and Technology

Science Initiative Group

California Council on Science and Technology

American Polar Society

Links to Governmental and Business Groups:

World Planners Congress

Int'l Intellectual Property Alliance

US Chamber of Commerce

Environmental Working Group

Foreign Policy Group

Southern United States Trade Association

Washington Research Group (Guggenheim Partners)

Nat'l Conf.
of State Legislators

Nat'l Association of Government Contractors

Investment Company Institute

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority

American National Standards Institute

Urban Land Institute

Independent Business Alliance

American Independent Business Alliance

Link to Media Sites:

National Geographic

Mother Earth News

Solar Today Magazine

Farming Magazine

1 Sky

Charlie Rose

Nightly News with Brian Williams

Washington Post

Meet the Press

Jim Lehrer NewsHour

60 Minutes





"The adoption of a holistic worldview globally may represent humanity's greatest chance for a promising future to be shared by all." yasha husain








By Yasha Husain, posted May 14, 2009

Debate #2: Green Energy in the American Southeast

ARC Hydrogen Artist's Concept
Artist's rendition of the new Center for Hydrogen Research
Photo Courtesy of the Department of Energy

Hydrogen storage materials research at SRNL's Center for Hydrogen Research, ARC: Hydrogen
Photo Courtesy of Department of Energy

Fred Humes, Director of the Education, Training and Research Center at ARC: Hydrogen in Aiken, South Carolina

I tracked Fred Humes down initially not only because of his involvement in hydrogen research, in a state with more hydrogen researchers than any other, but also because he'd just produced hydrogen using a solar array at his set up at the ARC: Hydrogen lab. I learned he would shortly be testing a wind turbine to try to meet the same end.

Humes, as Director of the Education, Training, and Research Laboratory at ARC: Hydrogen, in Aiken County, SC, is working with solar and wind in part because he believes there’s greater potential capacity from both resources in South Carolina than is generally thought. He told me in a year's time (presumably after he's had more time (and seasons) to test both PV and the latest vertical design wind turbine) he'll know whether he's right.

Interest in hydrogen storage from renewables at ARC: Hydrogen also grew out of the fact that with wind and solar "you’ve got to use it or lose it." So, Humes said, you need some sort of storage system for these resources.

In our conversation on May 1st, Humes and I discussed how ARC: Hydrogen, located just beyond the parameters of the Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL), had evolved since President Bush made the call for hydrogen to become the fuel of the future in his 2003 State of the Union address ("the first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free," a quote from Bush's 2003 address).

Savannah River Site (SRS), on which SRNL is situated, of course has a long history of nuclear weapons research and development. Scientists working there build upon 50 years of experience in handling plutonium and tritium, hydrogen's only radioactive isotope. Until the early 1990's, SRS's mission involved reprocessing and separating plutonium and tritium for national defense. Between 2003 and 2005, production of tritium for small nuclear weapons began again at the Tennessee Valley's Watts Bar Nuclear Reactor, which produces lithium absorber rods tritium is later extracted from at the SRS Tritium Extraction Facility, completed in 2006. As tritium is produced it also needs to be safely stored and metal hydride storage materials were developed over the years to provide a safer mode of storage.

Scientists at SRS have now been working with metal hydrides and solid-state hydrogen storage research for more than 25 years, and today SRNL hydrogen scientists have access to the largest metal hydride storage place in the country and world.

It made sense that scientists with decades of experience working with hydrogen storage technologies would somehow collaborate with academia and the private sector to help push forward President Bush's new initiative for fuel cells to drive a future hydrogen economy.

But, because the SRNL scientists were still based inside the parameters of SRS, they were not permitted to divulge information about their work to people from outside.

So ARC: Hydrogen came into being in 2006 in order that there would be a special hub for SRNL scientists, where they could come out and collaborate with those in academia and industry, off of the grounds of the official national lab. In fact, SRNL and ARC: Hydrogen share a border.

Aiken County's government funded the construction of the center, acknowledging the benefits to be gained from placing the collaborative in the local community, and a unique shelter for innovation was born. It's purpose being to spur technological transfer helping to create new market applications.

Half of ARC: Hydrogen currently houses about 40 hydrogen scientists from SRNL, and the other half houses researchers from places like University of South Carolina Aiken, Toyota Technical Center, and ITER (the joint international team of researchers working toward demonstrating the feasibility of fusion power).

Humes said some scientists at the center are also studying anodes and cathodes to try to develop greener batteries for automobiles and battery packs for backup PV power that would be akin to green battery models like nickel metal hydrides, and perhaps lithium ion. But the details related to that science, he said, are strictly proprietary.

The Education, Training, and Research Laboratory, a 2,000 square foot laboratory within ARC: Hydrogen, features the newly installed 20 kilowatt solar array that produces hydrogen using sunlight. The array is installed in what's called the center's Solar Park, which has had added to it the finishing touches of a gazebo and patio.

At the lab, school-age children can come to learn about the hydrogen from solar science and how the technologies work. Students from Aiken Technical College also use the lab and do training there. And the lab is a development tool used by Humes to promote practical applications of hydrogen. It contains systems to model or profile the amount of renewables needed to produce enough hydrogen for a fuel cell to operate.

As Humes put it, "tell us your load demands and we can tell you how much solar you would need in a month in order to drive a 3 kilowatt fuel cell."

Humes stated there are three ways to store hydrogen, the simplest and lightest of all elements: as a liquid, as compressed gas, or in metal hydrides. In liquid form it has to be cryogenically cooled, which is cost-prohibitive. Compressed hydrogen takes up considerably more volume than say gasoline, which presents another set of challenges.

But metal hydrides, Humes said, "are a low pressure, low temperature storage (solution) that normal people would call finely ground gravel material. The hydrogen is stored in the nooks and crannies of the hydride."

"The lab is looking at the best of those hydrides for storage purposes. Which is great because you don’t have to cryogenically cool or pressurize it. (It can be stored in metal hydrides) between 80-90 degrees Celsius versus 20 degrees above absolute freezing,"
Humes described.

Using the solar array at the lab, he added, "you can run solar through an electrolyzer to produce hydrogen and fuel forklifts."

But we took that one step further, Humes said, and are right now working with Ron Monahan, a developer out of Boulder, CO, to build a Net Zero Energy homes development called The Ridge that's located in Aiken, SC.

The homes will be able to generate electricity during the day using the power they draw from solar arrays. But a predetermined amount of the excess solar from the daytime, instead of going to waste, being sold back to the grid, or being stored in a traditional lead acid battery (versus a greener nickel metal hydride or lithium ion battery), will be electrolyzed to produce enough hydrogen for a stationary fuel cell that will run at night. Instead of having to pull from the grid at night, homes will be able to take advantage of stored solar power from the day using a hydrogen fuel cell.

Even as research into the safety of using recycled metal hydrides for hydrogen storage in fuel cells continues - amazing-sounding applications using metal hydrides for hydrogen storage arrive.

With modeling systems Humes and his colleagues can simulate people's domestic energy demands in the form of the renewable needed to produce the right amount of hydrogen to run a fuel cell overnight, all they need, for example, is the house's square footage and the type of big appliances used there.

Humes said he can simulate a winter scenario where temperature raises from 30-40 degrees and determine how much a heat pump is going to run and how much current it will draw to find the amount of the renewable that will be needed.

Using the laboratory, Humes claims, they can tailor the most economical of energy systems.
"Because we don’t have a good record of the efficiency of different types of solar in this area and how many days the sun might be shining and be cloudy, it’s probably better than some of the other estimates that there are," he said.

Then he exclaimed, "I’m producing hydrogen from solar right this minute. NREL is probably doing this, but I don’t know of anybody who has developed a system like this with the goal of working with industry and developers and manufacturers.

"Our goal is to take this work and bring it to the private sector. We’re looking at applicability."

Humes believes that with more research, and greater efficiencies, pretty soon you can have a very useful power source in hydrogen.

In August, when the newest of the windmills come out, Humes will install that at the lab too. "We're looking to isolate how much hydrogen can be produced with wind," he said.

Since according to most wind maps there's no real wind potential onshore in South Carolina, accept for in the mountains in the northwest corner, Humes' experiment with a wind turbine that has an elliptical, vertical blade versus a horizontal one, should prove interesting.*

The turbine will be used to collect and share data. "The thing about wind turbines," Humes said, "is that they are designing turbines to even capture vertical component of wind coming from the side of a building."

When I asked for the names of the companies that are developing the models he's likely to choose from he mentioned I could do a search online for vertical wind turbines and those companies would probably come up. Apparently, only two companies are developing the type of turbine he's interested in purchasing.

"I’m looking for the best answer just like everybody else is. If you want my answer for ten years from now, it would be nuclear power and hydrogen. Nuclear residences and hydrogen to power our cars, and internal combustion engines that burn hydrogen," Humes shared.

"Very few places or people have integrated all of these sources into a system. Our goal is to do this. It’s important because if I’m generating hydrogen from solar and I don’t need more because my hydrogen tank is full, where is that solar going to go? Maybe back to the house, to the grid, maybe it’s wasted. So, when we look at the approach there has to be electronics."

The priority number one has to be produce hydrogen. Number two, lights for buildings. Number three, send it (the excess power) back to the grid, he said. This means developing all of the switching gear, and the interface between the electrolyzer and circuits, and from the hydrogen to the solar power, and from international lighting back to the grid.

All of the programming, and the interfaces that need to go on between where you route this solar electricity, are all very important, he continued.

Humes and his team are right now capable of modeling 20 kilowatts of solar and separating that into different priorities. That’s where they're at, with eyes set on expansion.

*Vertical wind turbines operate in winds as slow as five miles per hour, and tend to be closer to the ground than turbines with horizontal blades. They're also known to be silent, bird and environment-friendly, and good for urban as well as suburban settings, according to various online reviews. Other reviews, however, and the major manufacturers, as well as the national lab's Wind Technology Center, favor horizontal turbines, which work well in variable wind speed and higher heights.

This article was modified by Yasha Husain on May 15th, 2009.


DOE Scientific and Technical Information, Information Bridge. 23 Apr. 2009. Hydrogen and Our Energy Future. 01 Mar. 2009. <

DOE Scientific and Technical Information, Information Bridge. 23 Mar. 2009. HYDROGEN TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH AT THE SAVANNAH RIVER NATIONAL LABORATORY 02 Mar. 2009. < jsp?query_id=2&page=0&osti_id=949872.>

"Tritium." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 3 May 2009, 08:48 UTC. 15 May 2009 <

Makhijani, Arjun, et el. Nuclear Wastelands: A Global Guide to Nuclear Weapons Production and Its Health and Environmental Effects. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000.


Robert Leitner, Director of South Carolina's Institute for Energy Studies at Clemson University

Nate Blair, Senior Analyst/Group Manager at National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado

Jeffrey Nelson, Manager, Concentrating Solar Power Systems, Sandia National Laboratories

Todd Stone, Director of Marketing, 3TIER, Global Renewable Energy Assessment and Forecasting

Erika Hartwig Myers, Renewable Energy Coordinator for the South Carolina Energy Office

Chris Daetwyler, Staff Specialist, South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance


Topics featured in this debate:

Offshore Wind

Concentrated Solar

Hydrogen from Solar Electrolysis


Debate #2: Comments

Received May 17, 2009 9:10 p.m.

James Hansen, "Hydrogen is not an energy source -- and not an effective energy carrier -- don't bet anything on it."

Hansen is Director: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Hansen's comments were the first to be posted for Debate #2; to view more comments, please link to the page, Debate #2: Comments 



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