Bloom Energy plans to build one of its electrolyzers at Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island nuclear plant in Welch, Minnesota.

It’s the latest collaborative effort to scale up the production of clean hydrogen through electrolysis powered by nuclear. Proponents say doing so builds an economic case to keep the nation’s at-risk reactors up and running.

As global demand for hydrogen is projected to increase tenfold or more by 2050, there is a need to produce it in larger quantities from low- and zero-carbon sources.

According to the DOE, a single 1,000 MW nuclear reactor could produce more than 150,000 metric tons of hydrogen each year. Ten nuclear reactors could provide about 1.5 million metric tons annually or 15% of current hydrogen produced in the United States, the DOE said.

Bloom Energy’s electrolyzer operates at high temperatures to convert water into hydrogen. The company says its electrolyzers are more efficient than polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) or alkaline alternatives, requiring roughly 40% less electricity.

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

The 1,060 MW Prairie Island plant has two Westinghouse pressurized water reactors. Unit 1 was put into service in 1973 and Unit 2 came online the next year.

In June 2022 we reported the announcement that Westinghouse and Bloom Energy would implement large-scale hydrogen production projects in the nuclear industry.

The partners would develop a high temperature integrated electrolysis solution for the nuclear industry.

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