California-based fuel cell company Bloom Energy has announced that it plans to install an electrolyser at Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island NPP in Minnesota to produce hydrogen.
Bloom Energy said the installation will augment existing clean energy nuclear infrastructure to create immediate and scalable pathways to produce cost-efficient, clean hydrogen, supporting the growing hydrogen economy while enhancing value for operators of zero-carbon nuclear facilities.
The demonstration project is designed to create “immediate and scalable pathways” for producing cost-efficient and clean hydrogen while adding value for nuclear power plants, Bloom and Xcel said.
Bloom Energy’s electrolyser is built on a solid oxide platform and operates at high temperatures to convert water into hydrogen. The heat and steam produced by Prairie Island will feed into the electrolyser to produce hydrogen more efficiently than low-temperature electrolysis alternatives such as polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) or alkaline technologies which require roughly 40% more electricity. Bloom said the engineering for the 240kW demonstration facility is underway, with construction expected to begin in late 2023 and power-on scheduled for early 2024.
“Xcel Energy’s nuclear power plants already play a vital role in our energy mix, delivering clean, reliable and affordable power for our customers while avoiding hundreds of millions of tons of emissions”, said Peter Gardner, senior vice president and chief nuclear officer at Xcel Energy. He added that the project will provide an opportunity “to better understand how our existing nuclear plants can contribute to the development of hydrogen technologies and build a carbon-free future”.
“Xcel Energy has long championed what we at Bloom Energy know is true: Our net-zero future hinges on energy that’s not only clean but also resilient, accessible, and affordable,” said Rick Beuttel, vice president of hydrogen business at Bloom Energy. “In today’s climate of extreme weather, fluctuating costs, and global energy insecurity, hydrogen offers unmatched potential to leverage existing infrastructure for clean, abundant energy.”
Image: The Prairie Island nuclear power plant (courtesy of Xcel Energy)