A well-known energy publication recently posed the question “What does a grid need to be resilient?” That is not only a common concern, it is a rapidly growing issue. The lack of electricity suffered by Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria is a leading example of the increasing force and frequency of phenomena such as cyclonic storms, forest fires, and other disasters around the world that are attributable to climate change. The solution to the question posed is the best source of clean, baseload renewable energy, which is very hot, very high-pressure geothermal resources, most of which occur in the rift zones in the ocean floor, around the world. Such resources are excellent for producing clean hydrogen, which is not only a prime mode of transporting energy, but also a prime mode for storing clean energy.
The primary problem that must be solved is to stop climate change by eliminating the combustion of fossil fuels. Eliminating the use of fossil fuels will require 100% renewable energy. We have been replacing coal, the primary fuel for generating electricity, but we still have a way to go to complete that task. To continue and accelerate the recent gains (which have not been rapid enough) we also need to replace oil, our primary source of transportation and other fuels. The secondary problem is that most of the recent increases in renewable energy capacity use wind or solar power, both of which are intermittent and therefore not reliable enough to operate a grid. The short-term suggestion for balancing the grid, batteries, are not only too expensive. They cannot perform all the functions required by the grid.
The solution to both problems is hydrogen, not the way it is currently produced but from geothermal energy. Over 90% of hydrogen is currently extracted from fossil fuels, which creates greenhouse gas and worsens the fundamental problem we are trying to cure. We need to produce hydrogen cleanly, by electrolysis. In the past, electrolysis has been too inefficient and expensive but those problems can be solved if the hydrogen is produced from very hot, very high-pressure water. This can be provided using renewable resources that operate in “baseload” fashion, delivering energy continually. Recently, it has been demonstrated that geothermal resources fulfilling all those requirements can be reached. A renewable, baseload source of energy like geothermal is ideal for producing hydrogen, and complementing other forms of renewable energy to provide grid resilience and transportation fuels.