Is Using Solar Power to Make Hydrogen a Viable Production Technique?
Green hydrogen is a non-toxic, light fuel that is less explosive than traditional fossil fuels and burns without releasing greenhouse gasses (GHGs) into the atmosphere. But is using solar power to make hydrogen gas a viable production method?
Harnessing solar energy can make hydrogen production carbon-neutral, doubly benefiting the planet. This guide will explore solar energy’s role in creating hydrogen gas and describe a few benefits of using the sun’s power in the production process.
How Does Solar Power Make Hydrogen?
Using solar power to make hydrogen gas is simple. Two of the most common production methods are electrolysis and photoelectrochemical (PEC) water splitting, both of which can utilize solar energy.
The electrolysis process is simple:
- An electric current passes through water (H₂O) using electrodes—one positive (an anode) and one negative (a cathode).
- While the electrodes are charged, hydrogen ions (H⁺) migrate to the negatively-charged cathode, and electrons from the electrical charge attach to the ions to form hydrogen gas molecules—H₂.
- Meanwhile, oxygen ions (O⁻) migrate to the positively-charged anode. The pull of each anode causes the water molecules to split.
PEC water splitting is equally simple:
- HIgh-energy light is passed through a water sample, providing an electrical source (the equivalent of the electrodes in electrolysis).
- As the water source is exposed to additional electrons, hydrogen ions (H⁺) attach to the available electrons, creating H₂.
Both procedures require energy—and solar energy can power electrolysis and PEC.
Benefits of Producing Hydrogen with Solar Power
Using solar power to make hydrogen certainly has its advantages. To that end, let’s explore four key benefits.
Produces Green Hydrogen
Green hydrogen is produced (via electrolysis, PEC, or other methods) using only renewable sources like water, wind, and solar.
Hydrogen has ample potential to make fueling a more sustainable proposition worldwide. However, if we synthesize it using fossil fuels and coal, this defeats the purpose of developing a clean energy source.
While grey hydrogen (extracted from natural gas) is the most commonly found version in today’s market, the energy sector strives to make green hydrogen more cost-effective and widely available.
Doesn’t Directly Involve Fossil Fuels
Producing hydrogen gas with the help of solar energy doesn’t require any fossil fuels—the energy source is entirely renewable.
But it’s also important to examine the entire supply chain. As low- or no-emissions fueling becomes more viable, we should also strive to make the production, storage, transport, and procurement processes carbon-neutral.
So, in the current market, it’s most accurate to refer to solar-produced hydrogen gas synthesis as carbon-neutral. However, users will likely still incur some emissions in pursuit of green hydrogen.
Advances Decarbonization Efforts
Decarbonization is a two-part process that requires:
- Reducing GHG emissions produced by fossil fuels
- Capturing or neutralizing emitted carbon and other GHGs
Using solar power to generate hydrogen accomplishes the first goal in two ways:
- Solar energy replaces fossil fuels in the production process—unlike fossil fuels, which require more fossil fuels to extract and refine.
- Users eliminate potential GHG emissions when solar-synthesized hydrogen gas replaces fossil fuels.
As the world moves towards a carbon- and fossil fuel-free future, decarbonization will require innovative alternative fuel sources.
Doesn’t Create GHGs
If your car runs on traditional fossil fuels—gasoline and diesel—it emits greenhouse gasses each time you drive.
But hydrogen gas extracted using solar energy can eliminate GHG emissions in two ways:
- Using renewable sources (like solar) for extraction instead of fossil fuels
- Eliminating combustion emissions, since burning hydrogen doesn’t emit any carbon
Hydrogen doesn’t emit any toxic substances or GHGs—just water, electricity, and heat, none of which pollute the atmosphere.
Reducing GHG emissions is crucial to the ongoing health of our climate. Using solar power to make hydrogen gas is only one method we can harness to achieve that goal.
Look to FASTECH for Your Renewable Fuel Projects
Hydrogen gas isn’t over the horizon—fuel manufacturers are producing it, and scientists continue innovating newer, more sustainable methods for extraction. Using solar power to make hydrogen is part and parcel of our energy future and present.
If you’re ready to switch to renewable fuels, FASTECH can help. As a leading provider of end-to-end energy solutions, our expert team can design, build, and supply your next sustainable energy source.
From mobility to business applications, FASTECH is your renewable energy partner of choice. Contact us to start building your bright, sustainable future.