A Power Plant In El Segundo Will Burn 'Green' Hydrogen. Here's What That Means To Us
The L.A. City Council unanimously voted to move ahead with a plan to convert its largest power plant, Scattergood Generating Station in El Segundo, to transition away from burning fossil fuels to generate electricity. The idea is for the plant to ultimately burn 100% green hydrogen instead. The plan is expected to cost at least $800 million.
City officials say “green" hydrogen is a needed part of the puzzle to piece together L.A.’s goal of getting 100% of its electricity from clean energy sources, such as wind and solar, by 2035.
The city’s wind and solar projects still lack sufficient batteries to store that power when the wind isn’t blowing or when the sun goes down, so officials argue green hydrogen will help avoid power outages, especially during hot summer nights, which are getting more extreme with global heating.
What Is 'Green' Hydrogen?
OK, let’s do some science.
Hydrogen is a colorless gas that is considered "clean" because it doesn’t involve carbon, which — when burned to create energy — becomes carbon dioxide, a major planet-heating gas.
But it takes energy to produce hydrogen. "Green" hydrogen is created by using clean energy sources like solar and wind to split water, or H20, into oxygen and hydrogen.
So burning just green hydrogen to create electricity — instead of methane gas, a carbon-based fossil fuel, as our power plants currently do — helps to eliminate planet-heating methane and carbon pollution.
So This Is All Great, Right?
Well … it’s not that simple. The project won’t start at burning 100% green hydrogen, but rather incorporate a phase-up from a blend of methane gas and green hydrogen.
Also, burning green hydrogen could actually worsen local, lung-damaging air pollution, at least with the technology as it currently stands — a big reason why environmental justice advocates are against the idea.
Opponents also consider hydrogen power another lifeline for the fossil fuel industry, which has advocated heavily for its use.
Green hydrogen also requires water (though far less than fossil fuel electricity generation) and is also more expensive than other green energy sources, such as solar.
This vote authorizes the L.A. Department of Water and Power to begin the contracting process for the retrofit project.
The council also passed a motion to require LADWP to look at alternatives to the plan and increase engagement with communities near Scattergood.
As of now, LADWP aims to complete the first phase of the project by 2029.
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