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SDG&E, Dominion starting hydrogen pilot programs to help reach net-zero emissions

Highlights

Both utilities have net-zero targets

Hydrogen to be blended with natural gas

New York — US utilities are moving ahead with hydrogen pilot programs as part of their push toward net-zero emissions, with San Diego Gas & Electric and Dominion Energy April 19 providing details about projects to blend hydrogen into natural gas distribution systems, along with other applications.

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SDG&E, which has set a target to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, is developing two hydrogen pilot projects, building multiple battery storage facilities, and starting a vehicle-to-grid pilot program that includes six electric school buses, the investor-owned utility said in a statement.

The company's climate pledge calls for eliminating all emissions associated with its operations and those generated by its customers' consumption of energy delivered by SDG&E, according to a fact sheet.

"SDG&E has worked hard to align our investments with the climate objectives of local cities, the region and state and while there is a lot more work to be done, we are seeing many clean energy innovations emerge, and progress being made toward our mutual goal of a 100% clean energy future," Caroline Winn, SDG&E CEO, said.

SDG&E will begin construction this year on two hydrogen pilot projects that will "test half a dozen use cases" with an expectation of putting them into service in 2022, the company said.

Specifically, the Borrego Springs Green Hydrogen Project will seek to demonstrate hydrogen's use as a long-duration energy storage application, a microgrid asset and a resource that can be dispatched by the California Independent System Operator to support power grid reliability, SDG&E said.

California frequently curtails solar power output in the middle of the day because supply "far exceeds" demand on the grid and that surplus solar energy can be used to produce green hydrogen, the utility said in the fact sheet.

SDG&E will install hydrogen storage in shipping containers that can support more than ten hours of energy storage for a fuel cell. An electrolyzer will be used to produce hydrogen when solar energy is abundant and the fuel cell will convert the hydrogen into electricity when needed by the grid during peak demand periods, the company said.

The Palomar Green Hydrogen Systems Project will focus on blending hydrogen with natural gas as fuel for an electric generator, as well as onsite production of green hydrogen "for use as a cooling gas," SDG&E said. The utility will also install its first hydrogen fueling station to support the first fuel cell vehicles in its fleet.

Dominion targets 2050

Dominion Energy, which has a target of net-zero carbon dioxide and methane emissions for its electric and gas operations by 2050, is also making early investments in hydrogen.

"We're investing in hydrogen today so it can hopefully transform the clean energy landscape in 5 or 10 years," Mark Webb, Dominion's Chief Innovation Officer, said in a statement.

The utility is working on multiple pilot projects to blend hydrogen into its gas distribution system to reduce emissions and Dominion said it is also exploring projects that use hydrogen for clean electricity, renewable storage, transportation and manufacturing.

The company is blending 5% hydrogen in a test system to "learn how hydrogen works in gas lines and appliances" before blending it into the system that serves more than 1 million gas utility customers in Utah, according to the statement. Dominion also recently proposed a similar pilot in North Carolina.

Storage, vehicle-to-grid

SDG&E currently owns and operates 13 energy storage projects totaling about 45 MW and expects to have a total of 135 MW of utility-owned energy storage capacity with the addition of three new projects:

  • Top Gun Energy Storage in Miramar area of San Diego (30MW/120MWh): Expected to be operational in June 2021
  • Kearny Energy Storage in the City of San Diego (20MW/80MWh): Breaking ground this month with completion expected in late summer/early fall 2021
  • Fallbrook Energy Storage in unincorporated North San Diego County (40MW/160MWh facility): Construction is expected to begin late 2021/early 2022

And SDG&E expects its vehicle-to-grid pilot program to begin in April with the construction of 60kW bi-directional direct current fast chargers at the Cajon Valley Union School District to support six electric buses.

The batteries in the buses will charge during downtime when clean energy is abundant on the grid during midday when solar energy production peaks and discharge energy to the grid during peak demand hours in the afternoon and evening, the company said.

Construction is expected to be completed in June 2021.