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Xcel Energy and Bloom Energy to produce zero-carbon H2 at nuclear facility

Electrolyzer (Source: Bloom Energy)

Bloom Energy has announced plans to install an electrolyzer at the Xcel Energy Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant in Welch, Minnesota. The installation is designed to augment existing clean energy nuclear infrastructure to create immediate and scalable pathways to produce cost-efficient, clean hydrogen, supporting the growing hydrogen economy while enhancing value for operators of zero-carbon nuclear facilities.

Bloom Energy's electrolyzer – built on its solid oxide platform – operates at high temperatures to convert water into hydrogen. Pairing solid oxide electrolysis with nuclear energy technology is a preferred method of unlocking unmatched efficiencies. The high heat and steam produced by Xcel Energy's Prairie Island facility feed into Bloom Energy's electrolyzer to produce zero-carbon hydrogen more efficiently than low-temperature electrolysis alternatives like polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) or alkaline. These low-temperature alternatives require roughly 40 percent more electricity, providing the Bloom electrolyzer an efficiency advantage that is expected to significantly drive down the cost of hydrogen production.

"Xcel Energy's nuclear power plants already play a vital role in our energy mix, delivering clean, reliable, and affordable power for our customers while avoiding hundreds of millions of tons of emissions," said Peter Gardner, Senior Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer at Xcel Energy, a clean energy provider that serves eight Western and Midwestern states. 

"This project will provide a tremendous opportunity to better understand how our existing nuclear plants can contribute to the development of hydrogen technologies and build a carbon-free future."

The Prairie Island facility – one of Xcel Energy's two nuclear power plants that produce nearly 30 percent of the electricity provided to its customers in the Upper Midwest – faces extreme winter weather annually, leading Xcel Energy to specifically turn to Bloom Energy for its resiliency benefits. Operating reliably and efficiently, we believe the installation will demonstrate how electrolyzers can leverage the energy output from nuclear to support hydrogen production even during harsh conditions.

"Xcel Energy has long championed what we at Bloom Energy know is true: Our net-zero future hinges on energy that's not only clean but also resilient, accessible, and affordable," said Rick Beuttel, vice president, of hydrogen business, Bloom Energy.

"In today's climate of extreme weather, fluctuating costs, and global energy insecurity, hydrogen offers the unmatched potential to leverage existing infrastructure for clean, abundant energy. Combined with Xcel Energy's nuclear infrastructure, Bloom Energy's solid oxide platform – which offers exceptional efficiency – can help us achieve our shared goal of an accessible net-zero future through low-cost, zero-carbon hydrogen."

Engineering for the 240-kW demonstration is currently underway, with construction expected to begin in late 2023 and power-on expected in early 2024.

Author : Moulin Oza
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