What are the Benefits of Fuel Cells?
Environmental - Fuel Cells achieve high fuel efficiency while emitting extremely low emissions.
Engineering - Fuel cells operate on a wide variety of fuels, utilize electrochemical reactions and contain no moving parts. These features make them simple to operate, quiet and extremely reliable.
Hydrogen is a medium for storing energy. To be useful as an energy carrier, all fuels, such as gasoline and natural gas, have a characteristic of being volatile. Hydrogen's benefits differ from the fossil fuels commonplace in an advanced energy utilizing society such as in the United States. Hydrogen is non-toxic. Gasoline and oil are extremely toxic and poisonous humans along with wildlife when unintentionally released into the environment. If a hydrogen spill occurred, the hydrogen would evaporate almost immediately leaving only water behind. Oil and gasoline, on the other hand, require immense cleanup efforts with the result being that most of the spilled toxic gasoline or oil seeps into the surrounding ecosystem wrecking irreparable harm. The hydrogen used in fuel cells is stored within a metal hydride, a solid crystalline-like molecule structure, the hydrogen is chemically bonded to the solid metal power and when released, returns to gas form. Due to this compact molecular structure, leaks in a tank containing metal hydride release hydrogen gas very slowly, allowing you more time to rectify and bypass an otherwise potentially dangerous scenario. Examples of metal hydrides are, lithium hydride, magnesium hydride, and calcium hydride.
Many factors enter into what your actual savings will be. These factors include; individual electricity consumption, geographic location, the particular utility, if utilizing a reformer the price of natural gas or propane, the avoided costs of installing lines to your residence when located in an off-grid area, etc.
The ability to sell electricity back into the grid depends on the geographic location of the unit. Many states have net metering laws, which allow qualified customers to sell surplus electricity back to the grid. Individual states vary on the amount of electricity each individual is allowed to sell, consult your local laws and ordinances.
Hydrogen is flammable, but it is less flammable than gasoline and requires a higher temperature for auto-ignition. Because of hydrogen's low density, it evaporates quickly, greatly reducing the risk of an explosion if released into the atmosphere. Depending on the type of metal hydride used for storing the hydrogen, different safety precautions must be taken. An ideal metal hydride would, along with its byproducts, be nontoxic, it would also need to have a high ignition temperature and be capable of being safely stored at room temperature and atmospheric pressure.
The fear of hydrogen from the Hindenburg disaster and the H-bomb is completely baseless. The current school of thought on the Hindenburg is that electricity around the flimsy, aluminum flake containing casing of the hydrogen most likely ignited it. The design and size of the Hindenburg also needs to be kept in mind. A passenger car or fuel cell operating on hydrogen would never have such a large amount of hydrogen stored in a flimsy cloth bag covered with highly conductive metal. Today’s fuel cell systems and hydrogen storage techniques are engineered with safety being a paramount concern. The composite tanks of metal hydride used today to store liquid and gaseous hydrogen are required to undergo rigorous safety testing before they are certified for hydrogen storage. The H-bomb was a thermonuclear weapon containing radioactive hydrogen isotopes forced into nuclear fusion by heat obtained from the nuclear fission of uranium. Only with the presence of a radioactive substance such as uranium undergoing fission, will the hydrogen atoms even come close to being hot enough to even potentially undergo fusion. Even then, H2 and its isotope H3, or tritium, must both be present. Tritium is extremely rare and breaks up in one millionth of a second. The hydrogen used in fuel cell energy is strictly H2.