How Long Island could become a green hydrogen hub

New York-based National Grid US envisions a “hydrogen hub” on Long Island that it says will help the state and city meet net-zero carbon goals in the coming decades.

The utility shared those goals and ideas as part of Climate Week NYC. National Grid US had developed a vision highlighting Long Island as an ideal location to cluster hydrogen production, storage, and demand.

Hydrogen has no carbon atom. It can be produced by electrolysis, separating the H2 from oxygen in water, and by the more carbon-intensive method of steam reforming of natural gas.

To be truly green or zero-carbon hydrogen, the electrolysis would need to be powered by carbon-free resources such as renewables or nuclear. The National Grid vision proposes that Long Island hydrogen production could be powered by nearby offshore wind electricity generation.

“When hydrogen is converted to usable energy in a fuel cell or burned to release its energy, the only byproduct is water vapor,” reads the National Grid web page on its H2 vision. “Hydrogen has the potential to help decarbonize multiple sectors, including power generation, transportation, and heating. Because hydrogen can be stored for long periods of time, it can play a critical role in help to balance renewable supply with demand while maintaining reliability and resiliency.”

New York has ambitious carbon reduction goals, but two-thirds of its energy currently comes from fuels like oil and natural gas, the utility noted. Renewables and energy storage can work with hydrogen capacity to reduce the percentage of fossil fuels in the electricity mix also.

National Grid has built 80 MWh of battery storage capacity on Long Island, helping to offset peak demand and emissions challenges while also balancing renewable intermittencies. The power generator also is considering transitioning conventional power plants to run on green hydrogen.

Numerous power equipment manufacturers, from Mitsubishi Power to MAN Energy Solutions and Cummins, are piloting projects to burn a mixture of hydrogen and methane gas in turbines and engines. Eventually, the goal of these projects to advance to a 100-percent hydrogen-fired power generation gen-set.

Some skeptics doubt that hydrogen production can be truly green. Those tackling a scale-up of hydrogen capacity in the future also are dealing with challenges around combustion in turbines as well as storage and transmission limitations.

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