A hydrogen plant to fuel Los Angeles

coal plant
Coal plant in Utah, © LADWP

When it comes to electricity generated from pure hydrogen, there’s good news: The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has reached an agreement with authorities in Utah to buy much of the output from the Intermountain Power Project, which will produce green hydrogen from wind and solar.

All the signs point in the right direction for this to work: For starters, Los Angeles is going all-green by 2045 and it is already getting some of its electricity from this Utah-based 1,800-megawatt coal power plant.

Together, the partners agreed that the plant will be converted to a combined-cycle facility that can burn not only natural gas but also hydrogen. By 2025, 30 percent of its fuel will come from green hydrogen and by 2045, all of the electricity will.

“It is absolutely feasible,” Janice Lin, founder of the Green Hydrogen Coalition, which is spearheading the effort, said in a talk with this writer. “This is not just an idea. This project is going to happen.”

Why the positive outlook? Obviously, the cost of wind and solar power has dropped dramatically, making the associated technologies and fuels cost-effective. Plus, the western United States is rich with such resources. And when coupled with the fact that the IPP sits atop a salt dome and that the transmission wires are in place, the odds of success go up.

Already, green hydrogen can be blended with natural gas at a rate of 15 percent. Getting to 30 percent by 2035 is reasonable. Secondly, hydrogen is often criticized for having smaller molecules that can easily escape from storage. But a salt dome is the best of all possible storage sites, said Lin, noting the dome can hold the equivalent of 100,000 MW. An abundance of wind and solar can thus be used to generate clean hydrogen and store it in the dome. And when this hydrogen is needed, it can be called up as a fuel, while the power produced from it can be transported to Los Angeles via existing transmission infrastructure.

read more in H2-international August 2020

Ken Silverstein

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