Arizona nuclear to clean hydrogen project receives $20 million from Dept. of Energy

An Arizona project will receive $20 million in funding from the U.S. Dept. of Energy to demonstrate technology that produces clean hydrogen energy from nuclear power, as part of the agency’s goal of reducing the cost of clean hydrogen production by 80%.

The project at Palo Verde Nuclear Generation Station in Phoenix will produce 200 MWh of electricity from six tonnes of stored hydrogen during times of high demand. Project lead PNW Hydrogen LLC will receive $12 million from the DOE’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office and $8 million from DOE’s Office Nuclear Energy.

“Developing and deploying clean hydrogen can be a crucial part of the path to achieving a net-zero carbon future and combatting climate change,” said Deputy Secretary of Energy David M. Turk. “Using nuclear power to create hydrogen energy is an illustration of DOE’s commitment to funding a full range of innovative pathways to create affordable, clean hydrogen, to meet DOE’s Hydrogen Shot goal, and to advance our transition to a carbon-free future.”   

The Biden administration believes heavily in green hydrogen — hydrogen produced from clean sources like wind, solar, and hydropower — as a key piece in the path to a net-zero energy sector. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory announced a partnership last week with clean hydrogen company Electric Hydrogen to develop high-performance electrolyzer components, and the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has announced intent to issue a funding opportunity to analyze the potential for regional clean energy deployments, all in the name of reducing the cost of green hydrogen production from $5 per kilogram to $1 by 2030. Additionally, President Biden’s FY 2022 budget request includes $400 million for hydrogen activities, compared to $285 million in FY 2021.

But hydrogen has its share of skeptics.

Green (or clean) hydrogen represents only 5% of the hydrogen produced in the U.S., due to its high cost, while the remaining 95% is produced using fossil fuels. So-called “blue hydrogen” produced from natural gas incorporates carbon capture and storage, though recent studies suggest the practice could produce even more carbon emissions in heat generation than using natural gas alone.

Last month, dozens of climate groups urged leaders in Congress to avoid funding hydrogen-based technologies in the infrastructure and budget reconciliation packages.

Nevertheless, the Biden administration remains committed to the research and deployment of green hydrogen to address hard-to-decarbonize sectors.