Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island nuclear plant to produce hydrogen

20 September 2022

Bloom Energy is to install a 240 kW electrolyser at Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island nuclear plant in Welch, Minnesota, to produce emissions-free hydrogen, the two companies have announced.

The demonstration project is designed to create ‘immediate and scalable pathways’ for producing cost-efficient ‘green’ hydrogen, and add value for the nuclear power plants. Bloom, a fuel cell manufacturer founded in 2001, expects to start building the electrolyser in late 2023 and start running it in early 2024.

The two companies stated that the high grade heat and steam produced by Xcel’s 1100 MW Prairie Island facility will supply Bloom’s electrolyser to produce zero-carbon hydrogen more efficiently than polymer electrolyte membrane or alkaline electrolysis alternatives, which require lower temperatures.

Those low-temperature technologies need about 40% more electricity to produce hydrogen, giving the Bloom electrolyser an efficiency advantage that is expected to drive down the cost of hydrogen production.

Another factor is the extreme winter weather experienced by the Prairie Island facility, which has led Xcel to turn to Bloom’s technology for its resiliency benefits, according to both companies, adding in a company statement that ‘operating reliably and efficiently … the installation will demonstrate how electrolysers can leverage the energy output from nuclear to support hydrogen production even during harsh conditions”.

The project will benefit from the USA’s recently introduced Inflation Reduction Act, which provides a range of clean energy tax credits, including for hydrogen production. The owners of nuclear plants could benefit from those tax credits by making emissions-free hydrogen at their facilities, S&P Global Ratings analysts said in a report earlier this month.

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