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Green hydrogen produced by a wind power facility plans to begin building in eastern Wyoming by 2026


A clean energy project that’s looking at eastern Wyoming has made plans to construct a green hydrogen facility beginning in 2026. Wyoming Public Radio’s Hugh Cook spoke with Paul Martin, the president of Focus Clean Energy about the company’s plans for the Pronghorn H2 Project, the impacts, and what it will take to make their plans a reality.

Editor’s note: This story has been lightly edited for clarity. 

Paul Martin: We are seeking to produce clean hydrogen, where our inputs, our electricity, 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.

Hugh Cook: Is this considered a breakthrough technology or something that's still in the early stages?

PM: The technology has been around for a very long time. Generally, the process we're using is electrolysis to create hydrogen and that is a very well-known process. It's not been done at a large scale before. The innovation that's happening is now, through the Inflation Reduction Act, we're able to generate green hydrogen, green or clean hydrogen at scale at an affordable rate.

HC: If I understand correctly, wind power is also a major part of this equation?

PM: So for us in particular, the electricity that we're using is primarily wind power, augmented with solar, possibly some amount of grid connection. But ultimately, it's primarily wind that produces the electricity.

HC: How much wind power would be necessary for your energy needs for the [Pronghorn] H2 project?

PM: Ultimately, the scale of our project is going to be determined by the market opportunity. And we are 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 to date. We are targeting as a first phase 1,000 megawatts of wind generation to power that. That could end up being higher or lower, depending on what the market allows.

HC: Eastern Wyoming is where this project is set to take place. Where exactly is it? Niobrara and Converse counties or just Niobrara County?

PM: We're currently looking at both of those counties. Wyoming has a significant wind resource throughout the state, but primarily in southeastern Wyoming, so we do want to be in the area where the wind resources [are] best. The cost of wind power at this point is the most competitive of the technologies available and so by locating [it] in a place with a high wind resource, and yet without transmission capacity to utilize that wind resource for traditional wholesale power, that creates an opportunity to look for other uses, like generating hydrogen.

HC: Where is the timeline of this project currently?

PM: Well, we are at a fairly early stage in our process. We anticipate that if everything goes according to plan, we could start construction in 2026, probably coming online sometime around 2028.

HC: Once that begins, how many wind turbines might this entail? Do you have an idea of what that might look like?

PM: Ultimately, we're looking at our clean energies partner on the project Nordex. The main backer of the effort has their wind turbine manufacturer. They have one of the largest platforms for wind turbines in the world, and so we're looking at very large turbines to be placed on the project, minimizing the number of machines that are going to be out there. The number depends on the actual size of the project, which, as I mentioned before, is dependent upon the market that we can participate in, but we're targeting five to six megawatt machines. So, 4,000 megawatts, you're looking at something like 200 machines.

HC: For the actual hydrogen plant itself, would that be either in Niobrara or Converse counties?

PM: It would, yeah.

HC: How many people might this employ?

PM: Well, during construction, the workforce is quite significant. Several hundred people will be involved long term. We're projecting something in the neighborhood of 50 to 70 permanent jobs. Some of those would be maintaining the generation facilities, the wind and the solar, but most of those would be involved in either the hydrogen production, or a downstream product really would employ folks that have experience in the oil and gas sector, so very transferable skills from existing industries in Wyoming.

HC: Are there any other projects currently like this to your knowledge in Wyoming, or are being planned in Wyoming?

PM: We are expanding the hydrogen industry somewhat. Hydrogen is produced and consumed in the refineries in Wyoming. This would be one of the first projects that would use electrolysis, although there are several other projects within the state that are seeking to do the same thing that we are and they're at early planning stages as well. And ultimately, this is a fantastic opportunity for Wyoming to participate in the growing sector that has immense possibilities for economic contributions, not to mention the benefits towards energy security and climate goals as well. The state of Wyoming has joined with three other states to make an application to the Department of Energy for Inflation Reduction Act funds through what is called a Hydrogen Hub application, and so they're seeking to develop the infrastructure within the state that projects like ours would utilize to deliver hydrogen to consumers.

HC: What might be some of the impacts to the land in these counties, local agriculture, things of that nature?

PM: 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 surface area of a ranch or farm where we're operating. So it's very compatible with the existing uses. Cattle do very well around the wind turbines, they graze around them, no ill effects from that. There's a very symbiotic relationship because ultimately, the wind turbines provide a stable long term stream of income to the landowners, which really facilitates the continued ownership of family operations as they move from one generation to the next, a perennial problem for agriculture. So, ultimately it can be a stabilizing force for these landowners that host projects. But obviously, that's when 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. That's more of an economic consideration for the landowner. I don't know exactly 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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