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A Universal Grid

grid improvement

Right of ways are required to ensure providers can build, operate and maintain systems that bring energy from its points of production to its points of consumption.

It seems that daily it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain these right of ways and as in the case of the Keystone XL pipeline they can engender disputes between sovereign nations and/or between varied factions within a country other than the one in which the right of way originates.

Witness the philosophical differences surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline in the United States.

Even when a right of way traverses a single nation it can pit varied interests of that country against each other as is the case of the east or west alternatives to Keystone XL proposed to get Alberta’s bitumen to tide water within Canada.   

These disputes can be so fraught that even the break up of the country can be contemplated or at least threatened.

Besides politics, disputes over right of ways run the gamut of health and safety issues, loss of value to the property owner the right of way traverses, the sufficiency of the recompense offered for an easement, competing interests of different energy sources along the proposed route and increasingly the climatic impact of the energy source to be conveyed along the right of way.

Virtually every home, office and industrial building in the industrial world is serviced by an electrical grid, a water line and in many cases natural gas is required for space and water heating.

Add to these is the requirement to move fuel for the transportation sector and these corridors are often the most contentious.

And then there are the byproducts of the production of energy such as coal ash and spent nuclear fuel that too have to be conveyed to either a place of final disposal or to a point of reprocessing.

In the case of spent nuclear fuel, objections to its conveyance have been and remain a major stumbling block to the advancement of the industry.  

Since every source of energy has its detractors and its inherent set of risks the more services that can be extracted from a single source and can be conveyed along a single corridor the easier it will be to provide light, heat, water and transportation fuel for those who need it.

Hydrogen is the only fuel that can single-handedly service all of these needs. It is a zero-emission fuel that when burned with oxygen produces water, light, heat and can propel planes, trains, vehicles and water craft.

Like electricity, hydrogen is an energy carrier rather an energy resource.

Unlike electricity it is also a water carrier and water is arguably more vital than the energy produced when hydrogen is burned or is fed through a fuel cell.

In many instances existing infrastructure can be adapted for use to convey hydrogen to the home, office or plant and existing production facilities can also be converted to producing hydrogen either through steam reforming or electrolysis.

In spite of the fact the auto industry has put a lot of money and effort into the hydrogen fuel cell, there is a consensus among experts that the expansion of hydrogen infrastructure needs to precede the mass introduction of fuel cell vehicles.

The best rationale for expanding this infrastructure is the prospect of technology that produces hydrogen that in turn keeps global warming to less than a half degree Celsius this century and that sequesters atmospheric and dissolved CO2 in the ocean and can neutralize ocean acidity.

Infrastructure to service the transportation sector can in turn be the foundation for an all encompassing hydrogen grid.

Ocean thermal energy conversion takes place in no one’s backyard and the hydrogen produced to get this power to market can be conveyed along singular right of ways that would be easier and more economical to obtain that the mess associated with current multiple efforts.

In view of the difficulty in obtaining energy right of ways, the fewer we can get by with the better off energy-wise we will be.

Jim Baird's picture

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