Douglas County PUD sets sights on hydrogen fuel production

The Douglas County Public Utility District (PUD) in Washington State has clean energy set firmly in its sights with plans to expand its operations into renewable hydrogen fuel production. The nonprofit corporation operates Wells Dam on the Columbia River, which produces more power than is used by local customers. Currently, Douglas County PUD sells the excess energy to other utility districts, but the supplier now thinks that surplus electricity could also be used to produce hydrogen fuel. If the plan goes ahead, the PUD could be one of several electricity suppliers in the Pacific Northwest to start producing this form of clean energy.

The hydrogen fuel would be produced by using the excess electricity to split water molecules by electrolysis, forming hydrogen and oxygen. Douglas PUD are initially looking at investing around $3 million for the purchase of a two- to three-megawatt electrolyzer as part of a test project to determine the economic feasibility of the plan. Speaking recently to a Washington Senate committee, Douglas County PUD general manager Gary Ivory explained that hydrogen fuel can be used not only to power vehicles, but is also used in a variety of industrial processes including fertilizer production, oil refining and the manufacture of electronics.

While there are currently no commercial hydrogen fuel stations in Washington or Oregon, and the production of hydrogen-powered vehicles is still only in limited numbers, the proposal from Douglas County PUD is part of a wider push for renewable and clean energy. Douglas County PUD, along with Tacoma Power, Puget Sound Energy, Eugene Water & Electric Board and NW Natural, recently formed the Renewable Hydrogen Alliance trade association. In a recent interview, the association’s executive director, Ken Dragoon, said that the strongest prospects for the successful development of a renewable hydrogen fuelindustry lie in the Pacific Northwest, due to the greater availability of surplus hydropower at low prices compared to other parts of the country.

At Clean Energy Enterprises, we also recognize a unique opportunity for hydrogen fuel production in the great Northwest due to the enormous amount of bio wastefrom the forestry and agricultural industries. In addition to having a surplus of electricity, the Evergreen State has a surplus of biomass waste, which poses a significant disposal problem. 

With the use of a BLUE Tower Clean Energy system, virtually any organic waste stream, including the plastics that are now recognized as a worldwide threat, can be converted into clean hydrogen while mitigating the problem of waste disposal, with little to no emissions. Contact usfor more information on organic waste removal and clean energy production.