One renewable resource from another

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Very large tower with three pronged blades extending off of it in a large flat field as an orange sun sets.
Photo by Richard Walker

The wind turbine generates electricity-more than half the power the campus uses. Right now, UMM sells any extra power to the local power company. But in the near future, the extra energy could generate hydrogen, eventually powering cars, homes, and gadgets without the pollution that comes from burning fossil fuels.

Using turbines to produce hydrogen also solves one of the big problems associated with wind power: turbines only generate electricity when the wind is blowing, which doesn't help with the power crunch on a hot, but calm, sunny day. Right now, there's no good way to "save up" the electricity that wind turbines generate. But hydrogen is storable. (Other Minnesota researchers are learning to generate hydrogen using ethanol or solar power, or even harvesting it from microbes.)

Coiled wire along a large metal tube
Courtesy WCROC

The electrical current generated by the wind turbine goes to an electrolyzer, like this one, which has water and a catalyst (KOH, or potassium hydroxide) in it. The electrical current, with the help of the catalyst, breaks the water into its parts-hydrogen and oxygen. Although you can capture and use both the hydrogen and the oxygen, the Morris electrolyzer will capture only the hydrogen. The oxygen will be released into the atmosphere.