Right now, says Bose, a key barrier to the development of stand alone wind energy is the intermittent nature of the resource and the lack of effective long-term, high capacity storage, "If we marry wind with hydrogen we can offset this disadvantage," he says.
The demonstration system, which Bose hopes to have up by January, consists of a 10 kW Bergey wind turbine, an electrolyser to convert the wind power to hydrogen and a 4 kW Ballard fuel cell. Researchers plan to assess the impact of intermittent operation on the hydrogen production sub-assembly, evaluate the fuel cell's performance in matching residential electric and heating loads, and develop a computerised control system to integrate the various components.
Bose predicts that while the "exorbitant cost" of fuel cells makes the system far from cost-effective now, commercialisation could take place "much faster than one might think." The fact that major car manufacturers are planning to begin marketing fuel cell vehicles early next century, he says, will help push the technology into mass production and cut costs dramatically. "If the fuel cell costs come down, the uses we're talking about can become a reality."