A project to transform a public sector coal-fired power plant in Delta, UT, into a combination hydrogen-natural gas generation facility that would move power to Los Angeles is being heralded as a breakthrough.

Utah net electricity

Utah’s Intermountain Power Agency (IPA), which serves 21 municipal power utilities, contracted Mitsubishi-Hitachi Power Systems to build a gas turbine system to replace the coal-fired plant, pegged to cost $2 billion. 

University of California, Irvine’s Jack Brouwer, who directs the National Fuel Cell Research Center, told NGI the facility “is the most significant project for demonstrating the potential of hydrogen in the West.”

The revamped 840 MW plant by 2025 initially would use a 30% hydrogen mix, increasing each year until 2045, when it would be 100% hydrogen produced from excess renewables. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power would be the largest power purchaser, and remain the 488-mile transmission line owner/operator.

“All of the elements that go into this project are mature technology that have been employed for decades in other industries,” said IPA spokesperson John Ward, “Hydrogen…is a widely used commodity; we’re integrating a number of mature technologies for use in power generation.”

Ward said “in all likelihood the project will play a role in other hydrogen projects throughout the West.” The existing coal-fired plant is built over a salt dome that now provides fossil fuel storage. “There is far more capacity than we will ever use.”

Ballard Power System CEO Ryan MacEwen recently said the United States, particularly the Southwest, “has tremendous renewable resources as well as a tremendous capacity to produce hydrogen.” The “great spreading of the technology” could create hydrogen from excess renewable power supplies.

Southern California Gas Co. began producing near carbon-free electricity at two Los Angeles facilities with fuel cell microgrids that operate on natural gas, renewable natural gas or hydrogen.