I recently made the case for a clean hydrogen economy in Washington State at the monthly Technology Alliance Science and Discovery Series. The slides from the talk are here. Alyssa Patrick was tweeting during the event and made a follow up blog post about the talk. In short, a clean hydrogen economy could happen soon and look like this in Washington State:

1) Hydrogen production: To add more infrequent renewables (wind, solar, tidal, etc.) to the grid, Bonneville Power needs more ways to balance the grid, adding power in some cases, removing power in others. Hydrogen electrolysis systems are ready and can respond rapidly to varying demand.

2) Hydrogen storage and distribution: The northwest has little to no underground hydrogen storage potential, so the tried and true method of cryogenic liquid hydrogen is the way to go, however, small-modular hydrogen liquefiers are not available yet. The HYPER lab is researching a very promising route to small-modular hydrogen liquefiers that utilizes parahydrogen-orthohydrogen manipulation to drive endothermic cooling. Once produced, this liquid hydrogen can be stored, transported, and dispensed in the refueling station utilizing cryogenic thermal compression that HYPER lab members won the 2014 Hydrogen Student Design Contest with.

3) Hydrogen use: With Washington Governor Jay Inslee passing climate control legislation with a cap-and-trade on carbon emissions, industries such as oil-refineries and fertilizer production need hydrogen sourced from little carbon, such as the method proposed here. If not sold to these industries, the hydrogen could be used for silicon wafer or solar cell production, fork-lifts, UAVs like the Genii project, or any of the fuel cell cars being rolled out by 8 major auto manufacturers.

Washington State is home to world class hydrogen researchers, including PNNL’s Hydrogen Analysis Resource Center and is home to the DOE’s Hydrogen Safety Panel. We have the people and clean energy that California dreams of having. While additional electrification projects like Seattle Metro route 48 are a step in the right direction for our clean energy future, at a whopping lifecycle cost of $363 million clean hydrogen should be an additional consideration, at that price a hydrogen refueling infrastructure could cover the entire state, and not require a copper mine for the raw materials.