Fuel Cell vs Battery Power

Fuel Cell vs Battery Power

Jane Marsh - May 28, 2021

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Energy fuels the modern world. It allows us to travel away from danger, power medical machinery, access global communication and more. Without this resource, humanity would face fatal risks.

Although conventional energy sources have gotten us this far, it also places humanity in danger. The air pollutants released from power production systems degrade the environment, putting humans and all life on Earth at risk of extinction. Fortunately, we can access alternative forms of energy to reduce our ecological impact and conserve the necessary natural resources for survival.

What Is A Fuel Cell?

Fuel cell energy is an alternative source of power that causes significantly less harm to the environment. The device produces electricity through a chemical reaction. It is composed of two electrodes – an anode and cathode.

The eco-friendly energy source also contains an electrolyte and a catalyst. Electrolytes carry charged particles between the electrodes, which have quick reaction times due to the functionality of the catalyst. Hydrogen is the main element that triggers the reaction within the cell.

Hydrogen typically combines with oxygen in the energy production process, making it a non-greenhouse gas emitting fuel source. The main byproduct of this process is water. Fuel cells are vastly efficient, making their emissions low. They contribute to a small number of indirect greenhouse emissions through their original operations, which are less destructive than fossil fuels.

Americans have yet to normalize fuel cell energy due to some common misconceptions. Many individuals believe that hydrogen is too expensive to produce power with. Currently, hydrogen is cheaper than the gasoline we fill our cars with.

Some civilians also view this element as a difficult one to store. Recently, car companies crafted a successful procedure for transporting hydrogen. They convert the solution into ammonia for shipping and transfer it back into hydrogen upon arrival.

The real problem with fuel cell energy is its minor reliance on fossil fuels. Solar energy may hold a solution to this issue. Rather than relying on natural gas to power fuel cell production, we can use solar-powered electricity to split water into oxygen and hydrogen with electrolysis. If the solar industry began mass-producing power, we could sustainably utilize fuel cell energy.

What is Battery Power?

Most Americans are familiar with batteries. They power the conventional TV remote, smoke detector, and more. Double ‘A’ batteries are just one small sector of a much larger genre.

Batteries have three working parts, similar to the fuel cell. They have an anode, a cathode and an electrolyte. The anode holds a negative charge connected to the cathode with a positive charge, and the two attach to an electrical circuit. These different portions play integral roles in absorbing and releasing electricity.

Unlike fuel cells that produce energy, batteries solely store power. Society can rely on both batteries and fuel cells to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. We currently rely on non-renewable energy sources to fuel the majority of our lives. These substances contribute to the enhanced greenhouse effect.

The greenhouse effect is a natural process the Earth uses to maintain a life sufficient temperature. It relies on the organic composition of the atmosphere to convert the sun’s energy into heat to warm the surface, then sending it back to space. When humans emit excess air pollutants into the atmosphere, they interfere with this process.

As greenhouse gases invade this space, they overproduce heat and trap it on the planet. Without the release of warmth off Earth, the global temperature rises over time. We can utilize stored renewable energy to reduce this environmentally degrading effect.  

Renewable energy sources like wind and solar power rely on specific weather patterns. Because these elements are uncontrolled, we need to store excess power to maintain residential and commercial demands. Scientists are developing advanced battery technology to contain large quantities of eco-friendly energy to shrink the global carbon footprint.

Engineers began converting the twin smokestacks of Moss Landing Power Plant over Monterey Bay to mass renewable energy batteries. They source the energy from local solar and wind farms. The smokestacks hold 300-megawatt lithium-ion batteries that can power 300,000 California homes for four hours every day.

These renewable energy batteries hold the potential to reduce atmospheric pollution contributed by the west coast and meet energy demands during power outages. Electric car companies use the same battery technology to limit fossil fuel emissions. Because solar energy is cheaper than fuel, we may see an increase in society’s reliance on it in the future.

On the Horizon

As fuel cell energy and battery technology advances, we can also expect to see an increase in their presence in the electricity sector. The electric vehicle industry is growing each year, and scientists project that 18 million of them will consume the roads by 2030.  

We may also see an increase in our availability to fuel cell energy. Because of its decreasing price, this energy source may be the next big thing in the power industry. A rise in renewable energy storage and fuel cell reliance can significantly reduce the size of our global carbon footprint.  

About the author

Jane Marsh

Jane Marsh is the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co. She covers topics related to climate policy, sustainability, renewable energy and more.