Does Hydrogen Fuel Hold Potential for Farming?

By July 16, 2020 4   min read  (631 words)

July 16, 2020 |

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Fuel cell technology, recently popularized by car manufacturers as a new renewable fuel source, uses hydrogen to power vehicles. Hydrogen technology may be a potential renewable energy source for farmers, especially as engineers work to create hydrogen-powered tractors.

Agricultural enterprises are in a unique position to benefit from hydrogen technology. With plenty of viable space, farmers may be able to produce hydrogen energy on-site, using electricity to power equipment and infrastructure. Surplus energy could be transferred to a local grid, allowing farmers to gain passive income from hydrogen production.

Modern agriculture is carbon-intensive and relies heavily on fossil fuels to survive. While other forms of regenerative energy, such as wind and solar, are beneficial to farmers, these technologies are not as stable as hydrogen power. Especially when it comes to farm equipment, hydrogen fuel may present a unique solution to help farmers reduce their dependence on fossil fuels while still increasing production.

How It Works

One of the largest agricultural equipment companies in the world, New Holland, is engineering hydrogen-fuelled tractors. This project uses hydrogen fuel cells to make electricity and power the engine, replacing diesel entirely.

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People can harness hydrogen energy through electrolysis, a process that splits water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The water required for hydrogen power is much less than the water requirements for petroleum fuel, but hydrogen energy is harder to store and distribute. However, if innovative technology makes hydrogen power more plausible in farming operations, it would be transformative for how farmers power tractors, mowers and additional agricultural equipment, decreasing dependence on fossil fuels.

Benefits of Hydrogen Energy

Agriculture fuel technology is clean energy, releasing zero greenhouse emissions and reducing energy dependence on fossil fuels. Unlike other forms of green energy, fuel cell vehicles do not require batteries and have longer lives than other types of green energy. Hydrogen energy on farms can be especially beneficial, as you can produce hydrogen from waste or biomass. You can also power the generation of hydrogen fuel cells with renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar. Having an on-site facility could help build energy independence for farmers, reducing fossil fuel use and saving water for other agricultural purposes.

Hydrogen Fuel and Farming

There is still great potential for hydrogen fuel in agriculture. Farmers are looking for ways to save money and produce more energy on-site, especially if they can do it sustainably. With incentives for wind and solar energy on agricultural land, many are in a prime position to harness power without needing to rely on fossil fuels to maintain operations.

While there are some clear limits to fuel cell technology, including issues with storage and distribution, there have been great strides in improving hydrogen power to work with vehicles, including tractors. Once this technology is on the market, hydrogen power may be an ideal alternative to fossil fuels for many farmers.

There are still clear health and safety limits to hydrogen energy, as engineers work to find better ways to store energy and make it easier to transport. However, the likelihood that hydrogen will soon be a common renewable energy source is increasingly high.

Farmers across the United States are looking for ways to cut back on input costs, especially when it comes to maintaining equipment. If there is a plausible solution that enables farmers to produce energy on-site and use it to power their agricultural equipment, they will most likely be interested in it. While there is still much work to do before hydrogen-powered tractors are the norm, there is undoubtedly potential for hydrogen fuel in farming.

About the Author 

Emily Folk Bio:

Emily covers topics in manufacturing and environmental technology. You can follow her blog, Conservation Folks, or her Twitter to get the latest updates.

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