Converting Solar Energy to Hydrogen: Answer to U.S.'s Long-Range Energy Needs—

by Dean Garyet, Student; Dept. of Electrical Engrg., Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, Colo.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1976, Vol. 46, Issue 1, Pg. 63-65

Document Type: Feature article


Sunshine is an abundant, inexhaustible, non-polluting energy source; it is free; and no foreign country can control it. The problem arises in harnessing, storing and transporting the power obtained from sunlight. But for solar energy to be adaptable to our present situation, we need energy in the form of electricity (for lighting, machinery appliances) and combustible fuels (for space heating and transportation). If an economical way to convert solar energy into hydrogen can be found, solar farms could be built in desert areas of the Southwest that could satisfy the entire country's energy needs. To produce 1,000,000 megawatts of power (amount needed to supply U.S. and northern Mexico in 2076), the U.S. would need to cover about one-third the agriculturally useless desert areas of the Southwest. The most promising approach is to use photovoltaic cells to convert sunshine into electricity, which could be used to hydrolyze water, producing hydrogen. The supply of water to be decomposed could be provided by constructing aqueducts to transport seawater from the Gulf of California to the Southwestern desert.

Subject Headings: Solar power | Energy conversion | Hydro power | Electric power | Arid lands | Hydrogen | Light (natural) | Agriculture | Mexico | Gulf of California

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