On August 17, two representatives from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) gave a presentation in the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) headquarters about the possibility of making Questa the home for green hydrogen production. About two years in the making, this green hydrogen project is the result of a collaboration between the United States Department of Energy through their Local Energy Action Program (LEAP), the Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (KCEC), Chevron, and the Questa Economic Development Fund (QEDF).
The purpose of the project is to generate clean and reliable electricity to the KCEC during times of day when solar power is less viable. The KCEC members are already operating with total solar electricity generation during the day and it is looking to expand its capacity for clean electricity in support of carbon reduction goals. The project would also create jobs in Questa, expand the Village of Questa’s tax base, and utilize existing assets from Chevron’s shuttered molybdenum mine to help build a new green energy economy for the United States.
Village of Questa Mayor John Ortega, NREL Researcher Chrissy Scarpitti, and NREL Infrastructure Analyst Kevin Topolski led the presentation which is available at the following web address: https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy23osti/86665.pdf. A recording of the presentation is available on the Questa del Rio News Facebook page.
“Green Hydrogen” is shorthand for a source of electricity produced from hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe. Electricity can be produced by manipulating hydrogen with different fuel sources – coal, natural gas, and electrolysis – with each fuel source given a color-coded name for ease of identification. The use of coal creates “black hydrogen,” the use of natural gas creates “grey hydrogen” and “blue hydrogen,” and the use of electrolysis creates “green hydrogen.” Electrolysis is the process of using solar energy to split a water molecule into its corresponding hydrogen and oxygen components.
Electricity in the United States is generated primarily with natural gas and coal, by steam boilers and combustion turbines. Green Hydrogen can be a clean alternative to both of those fossil fuel sources.
The most pressing concern regarding this new energy plant is how much water would be used in the production of green hydrogen. According to KCEC, green hydrogen production uses 148 gallons of water to produce 1 megawatt hour (MWh) of electricity. In comparison to other fuel sources, geothermal uses 505 gallons of water for 1 MWh, nuclear uses 672 gallons for 1 MWh, natural gas uses 826 gallons for 1 MWh, coal uses 921 gallons for 1 MWh, concentrated solar thermal uses 1,000 gallons of 1 MWh, and hydropower uses 4,491 gallons for 1 MWh. Green hydrogen looks to be among the least water-intensive energy source.
If this green hydrogen facility comes to Questa, Mayor Ortega says that the Village of Questa’s water supply would not be utilized for the facility. The facility would use its own sources as well as solar power for its operations. The goal of this facility is to help bring KCEC to total renewable energy production, both day and night. The project is in the preliminary stage.