US DoE funds project turning nuclear power into green hydrogen


The Palo Verde Generating Station will get a US$20 million upgrade to produce and store hydrogen, and convert it back into electricity for grid backup powerPalo Verde Generating Station

The US Department of Energy has committed US$20 million to an Arizona-based project that will use nuclear energy to create green hydrogen, testing its capability as a liquid backup battery and as a secondary product for nuclear power installations.

The project will be led by PNW Hydrogen LLC, and will build hydrogen production facilities on site at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Phoenix, Arizona. There will be storage tanks big enough for six tonnes of hydrogen onsite, representing about 200 MWh of energy that can be converted back into electricity and fed into the grid when demand is high.

The H2 will also be "used to make chemicals and other fuels," and the project will explore how nuclear stations can export and sell excess energy as an extra revenue stream. In a future renewables-based energy ecosystem, baseline power providers like nuclear stations will only be needed when the sun's not shining or the wind's not blowing, so hydrogen production could be a helpful way to use their downtime.

This is part of the DoE's "Hydrogen Shot" goal of reducing green H2 prices from around US$5/kg to US$1/kg within a decade. How is this goal aided by using expensive nuclear, rather than the much cheaper solar energy, to create hydrogen? Well, if using the hydrogen as a liquid grid battery is economically viable for the power stations, or even nearly viable, then the stream of excess hydrogen produced once the main tanks are full can be sold cheaply. This project will test the economics of the idea.

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