Plug Power will provide what it describes as the largest planned hydrogen powered fuel cell installation in the United States for a microgrid in the heart of California’s wine country, the city of Calistoga, California.
Energy Vault, a sustainable grid-scale energy storage solutions provider, and Pacific Gas and Electric are building the hydrogen microgrid to ease the impact of public safety power shutoffs in the area during wildfire season.
“Our agreement with Energy Vault marks a huge step forward for hydrogen fuel cells in the microgrid market and represents the future of utility power backup,” said Andy Marsh, CEO of Plug Power.
“Green hydrogen is uniquely positioned to solve the need for clean long-duration energy storage in at-risk communities like Calistoga that are susceptible to power interruptions,” Marsh said, adding that hydrogen fuel cell technology can help realize the California Public Utilities Commission’s vision for clean microgrid generation.
The microgrid will integrate a short-duration lithium-ion battery with a green hydrogen long-duration energy storage system (BH-ESS) that utilizes both fuel cells and green liquid hydrogen.
The 293-MWh BH-ESS is designed to support the city’s electricity needs for at least 48 hours and will replace the diesel generators Energy Vault typically uses during grid outages.
American-made hydrogen fuel cells
Plug Power, a New York based provider of turnkey green hydrogen solutions, will provide 8 MW of hydrogen fuel cell stationary power that will serve as the microgrid’s backup power generator.
The fuel cells, which use Plug Power’s proton exchange membrane electrolyzer, will be manufactured, assembled and tested at two of the company’s New York facilities.
The system will be owned, operated and maintained by Energy Vault.
Because the system meets domestic production requirements under the Inflation Reduction Act, Energy Vault will be eligible for an additional 10% investment tax credit.
Construction of the fuel cells will begin in late 2023, and it’s expected the system will be operational by the third quarter of 2024.
Hydrogen gaining popularity in microgrid design
Further proof of hydrogen’s expanding role in the microgrid market was on display at Microgrid 2023, held in May in Anaheim, California.
The conference kicked off with a keynote address from Neil Navin, the clean fuels officer at Southern California Gas (SoCalGas). SoCalGas turned on its [H2] Innovation Experience earlier this year. The 2,000 square foot home is powered by a renewable hydrogen microgrid and Navin shared details of how the system works.
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