In the fight against global warming, new sources of cleaner fuel are constantly emerging.
Recently, the main supplier of power to the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles raised eyebrows with an unprecedented proposal involving hydrogen gas. On December 10, at a meeting of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s (LADWP) Board of Commissioners, management staff made a presentation regarding the Intermountain Power Project.
Intermountain is a 1,800-megawatt coal plant located in Utah, which supplies electricity to the LADWP and a number of other utilities in several western states. The coal units there are scheduled to close in 2025, and the city will need to replace that generation. It aims to do that with clean burning fuel.
Describing it as a “first-of-its kind opportunity for the western energy grid,” the proposal outlines a plan to use renewable energy to power “electrolysis,” a process that separates hydrogen from water.
It will also take advantage of the unique geological features of the site, storing the pressurized hydrogen under a naturally formed underground salt dome, which can contain the gas for up to one year at a time. The caverns in the dome are described as “impermeable and self-healing.”
The plant will not be capable of running on hydrogen alone in the early years. Instead, it will initially rely on a mix of 30% hydrogen and 70% natural gas, with that ratio incrementally changing over time until the plant is able to run on 100% hydrogen by the year 2045, the same year that the city has set to reach its own 100% renewable target.
According to the LADWP, the facility will also offer the advantage of “seasonal shifting,” allowing the utility to essentially store renewable energy for use at other times of year when it generates less.