FL Utility to Launch $9M Hydrogen System
The Orlando Utility Commission announced early last month that it plans to add 149 megawatts' worth of solar projects, in addition to its development of a new hydrogen storage system as a means to double its reliance on solar energy.
The project is being financed by several partners, along with a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, bringing the overall total to $9 million for investments, materials and time spent.
In aiming for a 2050 target date for the city and utilities to end its reliance on coal and natural gas, the OUC has planned to expand its use of solar energy by incorporating a 500- and 600-acre site in Osceola County, Florida. The deal for the plants also includes two batteries that, when combined, can provide 1 megawatt of power for 10 hours.
Additionally, a hydrogen system would also be constructed to potentially act like a battery, in the sense that it can supply the OUC's power grid when output from solar plants drops off due to clouds or time of day. OUC officials say that the hydrogen system will be able to provide electricity for weeks, as compared to only hours with the batteries.
Reports say that the nearly $5.5 million hydrogen system will be installed at OUC’s Gradenia Operations Center, implementing an electrolyzer (or Giner component) that uses the electricity from solar panels to extract hydrogen and oxygen from the water below.
Once constructed, the OUC will test the new system as a means to supply the city with electricity, in addition to its capabilities in powering vehicles, pumps and equipment.
OneH2 will install the required tanks for the project, while General Motors is slated to install a fuel cell. The University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center is also reported to be involved in the project.
The new plants are slated to produce as much as 74.5 MW—enough to power 13,500 homes—thus moving the state’s utility to the top spot of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s “Solar in the Southeast” report for the state.
However, the plants will be finished at separate times—one by Dec. 31, 2022 and the other by Dec. 31, 2023. As a result, plant completion times will miss the report’s window. Bryan Jacob, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s Solar-Program Director, believes the utility company is on its way to the top spot, but adds that other utilities may also incorporate additional solar by 2022.
“This is an interesting competition we are seeing among utilities,” Jacob said. “It’s a good thing for Florida."
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the new solar plants will be privately owned, and the OUC plans to purchase over $200 million worth of electricity over the next 20 years. The OUC adds that rates would not change because of the new plants.
OUC officials estimate that the hydrogen system will take roughly three years to begin operations and provide about a quarter of a megawatt of electricity.
Recent Solar Projects
In March, the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District (Key Largo, Florida) installed 334 solar panels on the rooftop and over the chlorine contact basins at its main plant. The project was the district's inaugural endeavor and played a significant role in keeping Florida as one of the top 10 solar capacity states.
A month later, Florida Power and Light, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, announced that once two natural gas plants are retired, the company will be building the world's largest solar-powered battery system, totaling 409 megawatts of capacity, roughly four times the battery installation built by Tesla at a Hornsdale wind farm in South Australia, the world’s current largest.
Tesla’s battery at Hornsdale has a capacity and power rating of 100 MW, 129 MWh. FPL, which supplies power to roughly 10 million customers in Florida, noted that this plan, paired with other and other related moves, will save customers more than $100 million, and will eliminate more than 1 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
Just last month, researchers based out of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, in Saudi Arabia, developed a solar panel prototype that can both generate power and desalinate water.
The research, which was published in Nature Communications, details that in order to create this special kind of solar panel, they placed a horizontal commercial solar cell on top, underneath which are a number of tiers that help purify water running through. Heat left over from the solar panel helps warm the water, which then evaporates and passes through a membrane, from there recondensing into clean water. The final steps include a repeat of the process, and purified water is then released.