Friday, June 23, 2023
In a few months there will not be a single person who has not heard about green hydrogen. This technology has cropped up every time energy transition plans come out. Beyond solar photovoltaic, wind, and hydro. Now it is time for a modality that we are gradually finding out exactly where it will be; at what time; and what it will be used for in the future.
Europe wants to install around 40 gigawatts (gw) of electrolyzers by 2030, which is the system that generates hydrogen. Spain plans to develop 10% of this amount. In fact, just a week ago, the Ministry of Ecological Transition granted 100 million euros in aid to innovative projects for large electrolyzers. This program is included in the PERTE ERHA (renewable and green hydrogen) and seeks to promote both the development of electrolysis demonstrators and initiatives for the real integration of high-capacity electrolyzers in industrial environments.
The program has awarded grants of $10 million and $15 million to seven projects in five autonomous communities: Andalusia (three), Valencia, Asturias, Galicia, and Castilla-La Mancha. A total of 60 million went to initiatives in areas of Just Transition, such as the surroundings of the former thermal power plants of Carboneras in Almería, Meirama in A Coruña, and the thermoelectric complex of Aboño in Asturias, among others.
Electrolyzers are the critical devices in the whole process of green hydrogen generation. These devices are used to separate water molecules into their constituent oxygen and hydrogen atoms. To achieve this, electricity must be used since the bonds between these two elements are very stable. From there, a process called electrolysis is used to split them. The hydrogen generated is stored as a compressed gas or liquefied for use in industry or in hydrogen fuel cells, which can power transportation vehicles such as trains, ships, and even airplanes. The oxygen generated in parallel is released into the atmosphere or can be stored for later use as a medical or industrial gas in some cases.
Major energy companies have already set about developing these plans. There will be investments in heterogeneous hydrogen projects: electrolysis centers; active industrial and transport points where the use of this raw material will be enabled; plans for the reconversion of areas affected by the closure of old coal-fired power plants, and more. And all this, with investments and, consequently, employment for the areas, many of them in Spain's depopulated regions.
One of the world's largest electrolyzers is located in Fukushima, Japan, at the site of the nuclear disaster following the 2011 tsunami that devastated the area, including the power plant. At the time, it already entailed a paradigm shift in energy production as it is powered by solar panels. Recently, in January 2021, the Japanese electrolyzer was far surpassed by the one in Bécancour, Canada, a polymer membrane device with an output of 8.2 tons per day.
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