When my son Blaine was out with me at a recent Amarillo Sierra Club meeting, we met an 85-something year old farmer named Bill Paetzold. He explained at length his hydrogen fuel work that he has been doing for years. It was fascinating to watch him navigate the room with questions that would arise in a curiously insistent staccato, and he did not move from his seat.
I have shied away from hydrogen fuel fells due to my lithium-ion battery bent professionally on top of personal biases. It was time to challenge that perception and see what's up. Growth breaks molds and sheds light on the truth.
Bill and I exchanged cards after asking him questions on hydrogen fuel cells with the group. Billy Hydrogen, or Hydrogen Bill, has a farm south of Hereford, Texas, and he was referenced in notes that I took during the negotiations for the Mariposa Solar Microgrid. He called me within a couple days. I quickly made a time to visit his site in-person deep in the Hereford cattle lands.
Clearly, you recognize that you are in a different world when you drive through the cattle feedlots after looking at them on satellite for around a year. Cattle feedlots are our main long-term regional targets with waste diversion and energy production activities. You know when you see the cows standing on the manure waste in pyramids, it is time to make a change. The dominant river system runs right through the area within the cattle feedlot system, which is another opportunity for water separation and power production.
You keep driving south 5 more miles before you get to Billy Hydrogen's research farm. Since he is a farmer, he wanted to remind me that we are all in this electrical game for harvesting and storing. It makes so much sense from a fundamental human experience. His work is entirely predicated on planting investment seeds that harvest power and store energy. He has a solar array as well as wind turbine on his farm property and has won through appeal his own power purchase agreement with the Deaf Smith Electric Cooperative for his excess production.
His ingenuity, calmness, and curiosity were what caught me. He operated his hydrogen fuel electrolizer with ease, his hydrogen gas-powered appliances with calm, and showed me where water was split between Hydrogen and Oxygen. Oxygen is spent into the ambient air. The electrolizer system is powered by the solar and turbine array and/or the grid. Billy Hydrogen stores his excess hydrogen in old propane tanks.
Billy Hydrogen spoke of energy independence through producing hydrogen in a decentralized and smart way. He has shown how solar, wind, and grid systems can generate power to keep critical load for hydrogen gas production. His lengthy career has him working with top researchers and engineers in fuel cell technologies like Dr. Roy McAlister.
I spoke with one of Billy's professional colleagues from the Northeast, and the man said Bill's name is Bill Hydrogen. Bill Hydrogen does not make fuel cells. He only produces hydrogen fuel. That fact was key in our understanding what Billy Hydrogen is up to and what he would like to do with his electrolizer. Bill has feedstock.
Perhaps, we are looking at fuel cells in a crisper light when we begin replacing propane with our own tap or well water's core molecules. It is the residential clean energy developer and water systems providers that will benefit from community fuel cell systems when it targets propane tank replacements. You could sell hydrogen fuel tanks instead of propane fuel tanks and then work towards fuel cells. Communities will develop a safe and abundant natural gas.
Oxygen has a clear value for the Amarillo Medical District with its vast care needs. You would find a market for that clear and simple product. It would have to meet cleanliness standards, which is not an insurmountable challenge.
Clearly, we can see that Billy Hydrogen has feedstock available with hydrogen fuel and raw oxygen. Fuel cell production and oxygen canning/distribution could be wrapped up in his acreage farm, or those independent production pieces could be done elsewhere.
Billy Hydrogen has the hydrogen and oxygen gas feedstock.