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Climate and Environment

An Experimental Hydrogen-Powered Home Is Being Built In Downey. But Will It Be Safe And Sustainable?

A house with lights on under a star-filled night sky. The house has light blue lines illustrating power moving through it overlaid on the house.
An image representing the hydrogen home.
(Courtesy SoCalGas)
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What's billed as the country's first hydrogen-powered home is being built in Downey. SoCalGas is putting up the demo home to showcase this experimental green technology.

The home will have solar panels, and the energy generated will be used to produce hydrogen, the home's main source of power, with no carbon involved.

There's a lot to be learned from testing out hydrogen power in the home as a possible clean energy option, according to USC chemist Travis Williams, who researches hydrogen for the U.S. Department of Energy.

But there's a serious risk involved: flammability.

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"You cannot put out a hydrogen fire," Williams said.

There's also a sustainability issue. Much like lithium batteries, which are commonly used in low-carbon technology, hydrogen power also requires the mining of precious metals, which are finite resources.

"So which sustainability problem do you want?" Williams rhetorically asked.

Hydrogen also disintegrates even the highest-quality pipes, Williams said, so add that to the sustainability problem.

But there's only one way to find out if these challenges are surmountable, and it's worth trying it out, Williams added.

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When asked about safety concerns, SoCalGas said, "Hydrogen as a clean energy source has been safely produced, transported, and used for many decades across a wide range of industrial applications. Practices of its safe handling are well established.

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