One somewhat common misconception is that hydrogen is an energy source. It’s not a source, it’s just a way to store energy. In the recent climate bill, I was glad to hear no mention of the “hydrogen economy” as if it were going to replace petroleum based fuels. In addition to the myriad of problems with using hydrogen for cars, like infrastructure, it still takes a lot of energy to product hydrogen. Two frequently used methods for producing hydrogen gas are electrolysis, which is very energy intensive, and stripping it from hydrocarbons, which is arguably as dirty as current fuels.
The reason this concept is important is that renewable energy sources, like solar and wind are not as predictable as traditional power plants. Traditional power plants can increase production if more energy is needed, or decrease it when it’s not. However, we can’t make the wind blow harder or the sun shine brighter when we need more power. When they produce too much power, excess will go to waste unless it is either dumped, sent to another grid, or captured.
Sending power to another grid is in many cases wasteful because a lot is lost in transmission. Keeping the power local is ultimately more efficient. There are a lot of methods for capturing energy, like using it to pump water into a reservoir and using hydro power when more is needed, batteries, or making hydrogen. Hydro power and batteries can be used locally, but still have a problem transmitting over long distances. Hydrogen is a good solution in this case because it can be sent over long distances relatively efficiently.
Hydrogen can be shipped, potentially in hydrogen powered vehicles, or it can be piped. These may be viable options as the US transitions to a more robust national grid. There are many places in the US where wind is abundant, but are far from population centers, like in the plains.
As the map shows, off shore is the best place for wind turbines, but unfortunately it’s extremely expensive to build off shore. It will likely be the most cost effective to build the wind turbines on land, then send the power to other parts of the country. The technology is available, now we just need to build it.