SoCalGas testing innovative uses of hydrogen for clean energy

Phillip Palmer Image
Friday, February 10, 2023
SoCalGas testing hydrogen microgrid as clean energy
A 2,000 square foot home at the SoCalGas Energy resource center in Downey will be a living lab to test the grid expectation of powering over 100 homes.

DOWNEY, Calif. (KABC) -- A concept just a year ago, SoCalGas is now able to put hydrogen to a real world test.

"We really think we're gonna need it if we're going to be able to meet all the needs of our customers. That it's reliable energy, resilient energy, clean energy and affordable," said SoCalGas President Maryam Brown.

The Innovation Experience is a hydrogen microgrid, a combination of solar, hydrogen production and storage, and a blend of natural gas and hydrogen.

A 2,000 square foot home at the SoCalGas Energy resource center in Downey will be a living lab to test the grid expectation of powering over 100 homes, rain or shine for as long as seven days.

"Even though we have a single home as a demonstration, it's really focused on a neighborhood. Decarbonizing a neighborhood," said Neil Navin, chief clean fuels officer for SoCalGas.

Brown sees even greater opportunity: "Imagine also, it could support for example in a different design, an office park, or maybe in a larger design a data center."

Electricity can be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen and solar power is making the creation of hydrogen a more financially viable option as a microgrid fuel source.

The hydrogen can be stored for long periods and thus provide power at night or transported and dispensed into vehicles similar to gasoline, but all produced locally and creating zero emissions.

"We see worldwide, really, a significant focus on really deeply decarbonizing the economy. So we do see hydrogen as another tool in the tool box to decarbonize California and decarbonize housing and transportation," Navin said.

This is a first-of-its-kind project in North America and is meant to create an effective framework for planning a microgrid incorporating the various stages of hydrogen production and usage.

There won't be a need to replace existing appliances in a home and the lights are powered with green hydrogen. The fireplaces and fire pits use natural gas blended with 20% hydrogen. The idea is in the future, there will be a greater percentage of hydrogen in that blend.

Brown explains why this test is so exciting: "It's using equipment that is commercially available now. Not just for the microgrid, but for the equipment that's in the home. And I think what makes that exciting is that the clean energy future is not some futuristic thing many years away. It's actually coming to us much sooner. We have the technologies... now."