State’s ‘first-of-its-kind’ energy project reaches momentous milestone: ‘It … can be used whether or not the sun is shining’

A Florida energy project reached a major milestone in October: the production of clean hydrogen.

The Florida Power and Light Cavendish NextGen Hydrogen Hub is set to use water and solar energy to “help the company explore using clean hydrogen to offset the use of natural gas to run a traditional power plant,” NextEra Energy stated in a news release, calling it the state’s “first-of-its-kind clean hydrogen pilot project.”

Some of the solar power will be sent to the grid for use by residents, while the rest will fuel hydrogen production equipment, including electrolyzers that split water into hydrogen and oxygen elements. The hydrogen is compressed, stored, and blended with natural gas; the oxygen is released into the air; and the hydrogen produces more electricity for the grid.

“Hydrogen is a ‘no-brainer’ for Florida,” Arif Sarwat, director of the FPL-Florida International University Solar Research Center, said in the release. “As the most abundant element on Earth it can be stored as an energy source that can be used whether or not the sun is shining.”

FPL stated that it will use a 5% blend of hydrogen in one of three natural gas combustion turbines to “help the company maximize learning opportunities as it continues to pursue its Real Zero goal of decarbonizing its power-generation by 2045 at the latest.”

“What we discover could eventually help us hedge against the volatility and cost of fuel,” Tim Oliver, vice president of development, said. “This is about creating more options for affordable and clean electricity for Florida.”

It’s a small step in a potential move toward green hydrogen.

In Texas, a megafacility for clean hydrogen could keep over 55 million tons of carbon pollution from being produced in its lifetime. In Wyoming, a coal plant is being transformed into a hydrogen producer. And Uzbekistan recently broke ground on Central Asia’s first green hydrogen-wind plant.

The coolest development in regard to technology powered by the lightest chemical element may just be hydrogen fuel cell airplanes. In March, a 40-seat jet flew for 15 minutes, perhaps marking “the true start to the decarbonization of the global airline industry.” Commercial flights could begin as soon as next year.

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