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Montana Green Power

Your Guide to Renewable Energy in Montana


A fuel cell works like a battery but does not run down or need recharging. It will produce electricity and heat as long as fuel (hydrogen) is supplied. A fuel cell consists of two electrodes a negative electrode (or anode) and a positive electrode (or cathode) sandwiched around an electrolyte. Hydrogen is fed to the anode, and oxygen is fed to the cathode. Activated by a catalyst, hydrogen atoms separate into protons and electrons, which take different paths to the cathode. The electrons go through an external circuit, creating a flow of electricity. The protons migrate through the electrolyte to the cathode, where they reunite with oxygen and the electrons to produce water and heat.

A fuel cell converts the chemical energy of a fuel directly into usable electricity and heat without combustion. Fuel cells are similar to batteries in that both produce a direct current by means of an electrochemical process, but fuel cells can operate indefinitely as long as fuel is supplied to them. Fuel cells can provide power for cars and other applications, such as electricity and hot water for buildings.

Learn more about fuel cells:

Breakthrough Technologies Institute/Fuel Cells 2000
Breakthrough Technologies Institute, a nonprofit organization focusing on advanced energy and environmental technologies, has published a primer on fuel cells that includes:

  • How a Fuel Cell Works 
  • Types of Fuel Cells 
  • Benefits of Fuel Cells 
  • Frequently Asked Questions About Fuel Cells 
  • Fuel Cell Stack Developers 
  • Pictures of Fuel Cells 
  • Fuel Cell Industry Quotes

Energy Fact Sheet Fuel Cells
Energy Educators of Ontario have compiled a fact sheet on fuels cells. Fuel cells are electrochemical devices which directly convert hydrogen, or hydrogen-rich fuels into electricity without combustion. This process is much more efficient than traditional thermal power plants, converting up to 80% of the chemical energy in the fuel into electricity (compared to a maximum of 40% for conventional power plants). Learn more:

Fuel Cell Technology
Fuel cells work without combustion and its environmental side effects. Power is produced electrochemically by passing a hydrogen-rich fuel over an anode and air over a cathode and separating the two by an electrolyte. In producing electricity, the only by-products are heat, water, and carbon dioxide. Hydrogen fuel can come from a variety of hydrocarbon resources by subjecting them to steam under pressure (called reforming or gasification).

Hydrogen Fuel Cells
Hydrogen's potential use in fuel and energy applications includes powering vehicles, running turbines or fuel cells to produce electricity, and generating heat and electricity for buildings. The current focus is on hydrogen's use in fuel cells.

National Fuel Cell Research Center
Publications, databases, and basic information about fuels cells can be found at the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California, Irvine.

Rocky Mountain Institute 
Rocky Mountain Institute is an entrepreneurial, nonprofit organization that fosters the efficient and restorative use of resources to create a more secure, prosperous, and life-sustaining world. The Institute website features information about fuel cells.



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Montana Geothermal Resources
Two types of geothermal resources are being tapped commercially: hydrothermal fluid resources and earth energy. Hydrothermal fluid resources (reservoirs of steam or very hot water) are well-suited for electricity generation. Earth energy, the heat contained in soil and rocks at shallow depths, is excellent for direct use and geothermal heat pumps. Direct-use applications require moderate temperatures; geothermal heat pumps can operate with low-temperature resources. Montana has high-temperature resources that are suitable for electricity generation. Every geothermal site has a unique set of characteristics and operating conditions.




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Montana Green Power

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