Last thread on history of renewables + hydrogen (promise):


- Idea of using electrolysis of water & storing hydrogen is almost as old as electrolysis (1789)

- Already a lively debate in *1863* about combining variable renewables with electrolytic hydrogen to replace coal
The above quotation is from Jevons' (he of paradox fame) marvellous 1865 treatise "The Coal Question":

(h/t @physicspod)

and refers to an exchange in The Times of London in 1863, started by this letter on page 10 of the 2nd Sep 1863 edition:
G.A. Keyworth of Hastings followed up a few days on 16th Sep 1863 later with an elaboration of his ideas:
It was poo-pooed a few days later on 18th Sep later by some sceptics, with Q reported by Jevons to be "Dr. Percy of the School of Mines" (OMG did I uncover the identity of Q?!):
Already in 1840 the "alternate decomposition and recomposition of water" was talked up in Dr. Dionysius Lardner's "The Steam Engine Explained and Illustrated" as something on "every mind":
Jevons poured cold water on all this electricity hype in his 1865 book:

"Electricity, in short, is to the present age what the perpetual motion was to an age not far removed"
The ideas resurfaced in the 1890s in Denmark (h/t @ruth_mottram) with Poul la Cour's experiments to
tame the wind with electrolysis:
And in fairly full/modern form in J.B.S. Haldane's Daedalus essay in 1923:
So why did it never take off? In a way it did: there was a rash of 100+ MW electrolysis projects starting in the late 1920s using hydroelectric power to make green ammonia:
But they were out-competed in the end by fossil ammonia and other demands for electric power.

This was purely a matter of economics: electrolysis of water can only compete if there is abundant low cost power.
With abundant low-cost wind and solar power coming our way, hydrogen may return for sectors unreachable by a combination of efficiency measures and direct electrification as we decarbonise the economy.

It's been a long road!

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