Joining the Hydrogen Economy

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I’m excited to announce my jump from academia to industry as I join LIFTE H2, a new company pushing the bounds of the emerging hydrogeneconomy and enabling companies to meet their decarbonization goals.

I am joining the Systems Analysis team as a Senior System Modeling Engineer where I look forward to collaborating with Marta Dueñas Díez and Co.  I will be using the skills and knowledge I gained working with Ken Caldeira and his great team of postdocs and colleagues to model, design, and understand the tradeoffs of technology choices in upcoming #hydrogen projects. My modeling will also help motivate and determine research pathways for key technologies.

I have spent my time with Ken Caldeira studying the dynamics and variability of #netzerocarbon energy systems focusing on questions such as “How much #hydrogen could potentially be made from otherwise curtailed wind and solar power in future energy systems?” [1].

I used this academic background considering the interplay between wind and solar generation and hydrogen production as a springboard for recent work with excellent folks within the Stanford Climate Ventures community.

Under the mentorship of David T. Danielson and David B. Rogers, Joseff Kolman and I were co-leads for a team that set out to model and understand business opportunities for flexible #hydrogen production, that is hydrogen production that could ramping down when economical to reduce electricity costs and reduce the burden on strained electricity systems.

We wanted to know where in the US hydrogen production could be most cost competitive against incumbent technologies and what use cases were the most promising in the near future. The skills I learned and network I grew from this crash course in business and entrepreneurship have already been invaluable in landing this job a LIFTE H2.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me get here. Among other things, I hope to be a #hydrogen resource to you in the future!

Abbreviated thank you list:
The academic side: Steve Davis, Nate Lewis, David Farnham, Jacqueline A. Dowling, Enrico Antonini, Lei Duan, Michael Dioha, PhD, Candise Henry, Edgar Virgüez, Ph.D.

The entrepreneurship side: Joel Moxley, Amy Zhao, Phuthi Tsatsi, Sishir Mohammed, Justin Bracci, Aksh Garg, Melissa Zhang, Thilo M. Braun, Karen Baert, Gunther Glenk

The particle physics side that launched me toward programming, data analysis, and modeling: Wesley Smith and Sridhara Dasu and the rest of the University of Wisconsin-Madison CMS group

And many others!


Emerging opportunities for hydrogen production as a flexible electricity load

Wind and solar generation are powering more and more of our electricity systems. Along with their zero-carbon electricity comes their variability and uncontrollable power output.

Utilities are increasingly tackling the variable nature of wind and solar power by building energy storage to shift available power from when it can be produced by nature to when it is most needed by the grid.

There is growing interest and possibilities in tackling the variability issue not by shifting available power to meet electricity demands, but by shifting electricity demands to meet available power.

One potential candidate flexible load candidate is producing hydrogen gas by splitting water using electrolysis. Producing low-cost hydrogen with minimal carbon emissions is currently viewed as a cornerstone of an energy transition away from carbon emitting sources.

Our new paper

We recently published a paper in Advances in Applied Energy considering producing hydrogen as a flexible electricity load (demand) in future low-carbon electricity systems.

We asked how the operations of future electricity systems would change if we introduced a small, flexible hydrogen producing load. Is there essentially “free” electricity available to a business who can choose to operate only when the sun is shining and wind is blowing? How much “free” electricity will there be?

Study results

We find that in systems with substantial wind and solar power, zero cost electricity is available sometimes and low-cost power is available almost always. In fact, in modeled systems powered exclusively by wind and solar power, zero-cost, zero-carbon power was available more than 95% of the time.

One enticing thing about flexible loads is when other electricity uses are pushing the grid to its maximum extent and power costs are high, flexible loads can simply throttle back or even turn off.  This would save them considerable money and could save the grid from needing to expand generation capacity, a win-win situation.

However, if we really push the envelope with vast amounts of flexible loads like electric vehicles and by producing hydrogen, the grid’s generation capacity will eventually need to expand. After all, there is only so much zero-cost and low-cost power available in the original electricity system.

Many more interesting results and all the details can be found in the paper.

I am looking forward to continuing this line of work and further exploring the integration of hydrogen production with low-carbon electricity systems and how both can enable a low-carbon energy transition.