Red and blue states race to become hydrogen energy hubs

States such as California, Texas, and Colorado are racing to become hydrogen production centres. While hydrogen has the potential to provide extra renewable energy, many people aren't doing it exclusively to support a clean energy future.

As part of the bipartisan infrastructure package, the Biden Administration announced in February that it would contribute $8 billion to a number of states around the country to create, process, and store hydrogen. The financing was announced earlier this month, and the Department of Energy is still selecting who will receive it.

The great majority of hydrogen generated in the United States is used in industrial operations such as fertilizer production and petroleum refining. However, it may be used for more than just storing energy; it can also be utilized to create renewable energy.

Although interest in hydrogen power has developed significantly in recent years, the country currently produces very little hydrogen electricity. Fuel cell electric power producers, for example, now generate roughly 260 megawatts of power, whereas solar generates around 121 gigawatts. Hydrogen fuel cells, on the other hand, are being utilized to power modern electric automobiles.

According to Jacob Leachman, an associate professor of mechanical and materials engineering at Washington State University, hydrogen fuel cells are more widespread than we may think, according to Popular Science. “Thirty-three percent of the nation’s groceries are currently moved with hydrogen fuel cell forklifts,” adds Leachman. He points out that hydrogen-fuel cells are widely employed in the freight and transportation industries.

There are a few various ways hydrogen electricity may be used on the grid, depending on what it looks like. Hydrogen can be used for grid energy storage, which can assist back up solar and wind power when they aren't producing much. Essentially, this entails using sustainable energy to electrolyze water to produce hydrogen fuel for electrical generation.

Renewable energy is used to power a system that can store energy for later use.

You may also utilize hydrogen to generate electricity in a power plant, although this is usually done by combining it with natural gas, which still contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Nonetheless, several hydrogen-only power plants are now being built in Europe and other parts of the world.

A hydrogen hub is a location where a new hydrogen manufacturing facility is established. This has the potential to create jobs while also increasing the availability of hydrogen supplies for diverse applications. Many states are collaborating to plan for this and compete for additional money, frequently creating consortiums.

In the Houston region, Texas has started producing hydrogen. However, other states, notably the Pacific Northwest and California, Rocky Mountain states like Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, and a northeast consortium encompassing New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, are banding together to form regional centers.

Because hydrogen has so many applications, states who aspire to become "hydrogen production hubs" have a variety of motivations for doing so. According to Leachman, conservative states may want to create hydrogen primarily for industrial purposes, whereas liberal states may seek to use hydrogen to boost their clean energy capability. In conservative states, there is also a drive for renewable energy.

“Every state and region has a different play on the hydrogen hubs. Many of them are very much about renewable energy,” adds Leachman. “All of the regions have a different way that they can play this that’s really a benefit to them.” 

Because hydrogen production will be distributed around the country, all states will have access to hydrogen resources for energy and other purposes, and will grow more familiar with it. According to Leachman, this will have a significant impact.“The Hydrogen Hubs initiative requires the hubs to be regionally distributed across the United States, which means, inherently, we will have hydrogen hubs that will be placed in locations where we’ve never had a hydrogen resource,” Leachman adds. “That is going to result in huge, fundamental shifts in the goods and services and energy across the U.S. in ways that are very difficult to imagine.”

According to Leachman, the fact that new hydrogen production is being established in so many locations of the country might mean that hydrogen becomes a lot more mainstream energy source. People may see the facilities in their own neighborhoods, as well as the employment that will be produced as a result.

Hydrogen production looks to be on course to become a fast-growing sector in the United States, with implications that will be felt across the country. Hydrogen generation, according to Goldman Sachs, might become a $1 trillion business in the not-too-distant future. Instead of generating fertilizer, we may soon be utilizing it to power our houses.