This week, the California Energy Commission approved modifying the eight-year-old 250 MW concentrated Mojave Solar Project to add an electrolyzer, which will produce hydrogen from water using solar energy, with the goal of lowering greenhouse gasses. Hydrogen is used on the site to cool the concentrated solar facility’s electric generators.
Creating green hydrogen at the solar plant in Hinkley in San Bernardino County would reduce greenhouse gasses by avoiding third parties transporting to the plant hydrogen produced by fossil fuels. The CEC’s Elizabeth Huber said at the June 8 meeting that producing onsite renewable hydrogen would allow the facility to be “self sufficient” and lower costs. Though a member of the public asked what source of water will be used, since the Mojave Solar Project is in a famously arid environment, an answer was not provided by the commission.
Green hydrogen is considered necessary to help decarbonize the power, transportation and industrial systems but the fuel’s cost must drop substantially for it to become commercially viable. The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power is striving to lower costs by creating a market for the fuel, specifically by fueling its in-basin power plants and the Intermountain Power Plant in Utah with renewably produced hydrogen. LADWP is part of a public-private coalition, known as HyDeal LA, which is advocating for green hydrogen development.
The federal government also is working to make green hydrogen cost effective. The largest cost is that of the electrolyzer that extracts hydrogen from water. The Department of Energy launched a “Hydrogen Shot” that seeks to drive the costs down to $1 per kilogram, from today’s much higher costs in the roughly $6 range, within a decade. DOE announced on June 6 that it would divvy up $8 billion over five years to advance six to 10 regional hydrogen hubs. Between $400 million to $1.25 billion would be allocated to successful applicants seeking to produce affordable hydrogen, create jobs and advance environmental equity. Part of the funds would go to a region focused on renewable hydrogen development, with LA considered a strong candidate.
In other news, progress on offshore wind development was highlighted by Commissioner Kourtney Vaccaro.
On June 8, the California Coastal Commission unanimously approved advancing the Morro Bay offshore wind leasing plan by the Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The Coastal Commission agreed with the staff’s recommendation that the federal auction plan was consistent with the California Coastal Management Plan, but it did add seven conditions to ensure the protection of marine resources during lease exploration activities.
“This is really significant,” Vaccaro said. She noted that in April the CCC also unanimously approved a so-called “consistency determination” for the Humboldt Bay offshore wind development site. She said the federal agency was aligned with California’s coastal values, from marine resources to fisheries, and legal protections.
Up to 4.5 GW of wind power development is being sought, including 3 MW 20 miles off the coast of Humboldt, and 1.5 MW off Morro Bay’s coast. These two development sites would power 1.5 million homes and create jobs. The Bureau’s proposal includes up to five lease areas within the two coastal regions, covering 583 square miles.
The Bureau issued its proposed auction notice for floating turbines several miles off the coasts of Morro Bay and Humboldt at the end of May. Comments are due on the Bureau’s proposed lease sale by Aug. 1. The auction is expected to take place this September.
BOEM auction of leases for 7 GW of wind development of the shores of New York and New Jersey, resulted in six leases producing nearly $4.4 billion.