Utilities, including Dominion Energy, are increasingly exploring the use of now-costly hydrogen technology to produce electricity with little or no carbon.
One of the most promising uses involves using excess renewable electricity from solar farms or wind turbines to power electrolyzer devices that strip hydrogen away from oxygen in water. The hydrogen is then used to power special batteries.
The result? Carbon free power that is available at just about any time when winds are blowing or the sun isn’t shining.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Dominion plans on experimenting with hydrogen for another use. It will try to blend hydrogen into its natural gas distribution system to reduce carbon and methane emissions. It will be testing a 5% hydrogen blend in some natural gas shipments next year, the Journal reports.
Eventually, it may go the route of electrolyzers and use solar and wind power to produce hydrogen. It appears that Dominion’s experiments may take place in the Far West where it owns power generation and distribution systems in Utah.
Another firm that has plans for hydrogen is NextEra Energy Inc., based in Florida. It plans on using hydrogen and natural gas to run a power plant in California. “What makes us really excited about hydrogen is that it has the potential to supplement significant deployment of renewables,” the Journal quotes NextEra CFO Rebecca Kujawa as saying.
The biggest problem with using the electrolyzer approach is cost. Only about 1% of hydrogen produced is so-called “green” hydrogen. Much of it comes from burning coal or natural gas.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy:
The greatest challenge for hydrogen production, particularly from renewable resources, is providing hydrogen at lower cost. For transportation fuel cells, hydrogen must be cost-competitive with conventional fuels and technologies on a per-mile basis. This means that the cost of hydrogen—regardless of the production technology—must be less than $4/ gallon gasoline equivalent. To reduce overall hydrogen cost, research is focused on improving the efficiency and lifetime of hydrogen production technologies as well as reducing the cost of capital equipment, operations, and maintenance.
According to Craig Wagstaff, Dominion’s senior vice president for Western gas distribution, “The costs are going to go in one direction and that is down,” the Journal reports. The question, he adds, is how low?
Using hydrogen has excited researchers for years. One such use is fusion reactors that use hydrogen to release great amounts of power. Commercial applications have been tried for years, without much commercial success.
In the 1980s, for example, the Russians had experimental “tokamawks” or plasma fusion devices that look like small flying saucers. They use magnetic fields and great amounts of power to start controlled fusion reactions.
One is at the Kurchatov Institute, a high security nuclear research facility in northwest Moscow. One problem was that when they started the reaction, the lights in many homes in the city went dim.There are currently no comments highlighted.