Geoffrey Ballard is getting the hero treatment these days for his pioneering work on the hydrogen fuel cell. His eponymous company is leading the world in practical solutions to fuel cell power generation. More recently, Ballard has joined an outfit called General Hydrogen “to fulfill his vision of a hydrogen economy,” according to the company’s web site. He’s promoting an intriguing vision of a virtuous cycle of freely convertible hydrogen and electricity. One problem with our electric grid these days is that there aren’t good “batteries” for storing up excess electrical generation capacity. For instance, windmills turn whenever the wind blows, but not necessarily when the electricity can be sold. Use that electricity to make hydrogen, and then you have the ability recover it as electricity whenever you like.
Ballard is appealing because of the methodical way he goes about solving practical commercial problems. I found a good interview with Ballard, and although you might suspect he’s green to the bone, in fact he acknowledges that if you leave oil behind, you have to fill in the deficit with nuclear power. Otherwise there just aren’t enough kilowatts to go around.