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Minneapolis-headquartered Xcel Energy and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently unveiled a new facility that uses electricity from wind turbines to produce and store pure hydrogen.

"Converting wind energy to hydrogen means that it doesn't matter when the wind blows since its energy can be stored on-site in the form of hydrogen," says Richard Kelly, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Xcel Energy.

The facility links two wind turbines to electrolyzers, which pass the wind-generated electricity through water to split the liquid into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can be stored and used later to generate electricity from either an internal combustion engine turning a generator or a fuel cell.

Xcel Energy and NREL will each pay part of the $2 million budget for the two-year project, and the companies expect to release a public update on the operation of the project around the middle of 2007.

"The project allows our researchers to compare different types of electrolyzers and work on increasing the efficiency of a wind to hydrogen system," says Dan Arvizu, director of NREL.

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