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A hydrogen facility that will produce electricity will be constructed in eastern Wyoming by 2026

Gerry Machen

A green hydrogen plant that will be constructed in east central Wyoming is in the process of making their project a reality by the middle part of the decade. The Pronghorn H2 Project, an initiative of Focus Clean Energy, a Boulder, Colo.-based company, plans on constructing wind turbines in Converse and Niobrara counties in addition to a hydrogen facility to create electricity by 2026.

“We are seeking to produce clean hydrogen where our inputs are electricity and water and that creates hydrogen and oxygen, and then the hydrogen would be used for a variety of different purposes, from transportation to industrial manufacturing, or other types of electricity generation as well,” said Paul Martin, founder and president of Focus Clean Energy.

The project will be constructed on property used primarily for agriculture in very rural areas. There has been a mix of reactions since the project was announced but Martin said efforts are underway to build positive relationships with locals to minimize any concerns or distrust about the project.

“We have a lot of support from landowners that want to participate and are making good progress and we are engaging with those that have questions or concerns about the project as much as possible to understand what those are and try to find a way to make a project successful while minimizing the impacts on neighbors,” Martin said.

Wind turbines will be constructed as a power source for the hydrogen facility. For the next three years or so, the company will be going through the permitting, surveying, and environmental research process as well looking to find commercial solutions for the sale of the project’s electricity and hydrogen. If all goes according to plan, construction could begin by 2026.

The technology that will be used for the hydrogen facility has been around for decades. It uses electrolysis to create hydrogen, though this hasn’t been done at a large scale before, Martin said. Wind power in the form of approximately 200 wind turbines will help provide power to the facility, in addition to using solar power as another source.

“Ultimately the scale of our project is going to be determined by the market opportunity, and we are, as I mentioned, looking at a variety of different products that we could create from this and each one of those will allow us to do additional phases of the project, but we are looking to do a very large project compared to other clean hydrogen projects,” he said. “We are targeting as a first phase a 1,000 megawatts of wind generation to power that could end up being higher or lower, depending on what the market allows.”

Though the Pronghorn H2 Project will be located in the east central part of the state, there are potential benefits to those residing outside of this area and for the state’s economy in general.

“Wyoming has a significant wind resource throughout the state, but primarily in east central Wyoming, so we do want to be in the area where the wind resources [are] best,” Martin said. “The cost of wind power at this point is the most competitive of the technologies available and so by locating in a place with a high wind resource, and yet without transmission capacity to utilize that resource for traditional wholesale power that creates an opportunity to look for other uses, like generating hydrogen.”

Martin added that hydrogen is currently consumed by several refineries in Wyoming, and the potential opportunities it presents for the state are many.

Wyoming, in addition to three other states, joined to submit an application to the U.S. Department of Energy for Inflation Reduction Act funds to help establish a hydrogen hub. As part of this, state and federal officials are seeking to develop the infrastructure within the Cowboy State that would deliver hydrogen to consumers.

Martin said there are benefits to local landowners that could help the local agricultural industry in both counties as well.

“One of the great things about wind power in particular is that once the project is completed, we tend to only utilize one to two percent of the of the surface area of a ranch or farm where we're operating, so it's very compatible with the existing uses,” Martin said. “The cattle do very well around the wind turbines they graze around, no ill effects from that…solar is a little bit different, in that the use of the land is converted from agriculture to electricity production. The solar footprint though is much smaller and the royalties paid as a result of that transition of use clearly demonstrate the highest and best use for that property, so that's more of an economic consideration for the landowner. But 90 [to] 95 percent of our land area is going to be wind and that is extremely compatible with existing uses.”

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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