Change is inevitable, unavoidable, and imminent. It occurs through the dissemination of ideas, the cycle of the seasons, and with age. Change is compulsory in every aspect of life, including politics, as evidenced on Nov. 3.
On the campaign trail, President Elect Joe Biden unveiled a 7,000-word energy plan that promised significant changes to the country’s energy future, including $2 trillion in federal spending designed to set the U.S. on an “irreversible course” toward net-zero emissions by 2050. In order to meet this ambitious plan, the country will have to embark on nothing short of an energy revolution.
Decarbonization is one trending way manufacturers are opting to cut emissions. Phase 1 of decarbonization — the retirement of coal-fired power plants — has largely already occurred. Many coal plants have been replaced by a combination of renewable energy sources and natural gas. Phase 2 will transition away from natural gas to a combination of renewable energy and energy storage. A rapid growth in lithium-ion battery storage and the emergence of hydrogen storage will help fill short- and long-term energy storage needs, respectively.
CALIFORNIA’S CURTAILMENT CRISIS
Last summer, California experienced blackouts, as it didn’t have enough renewable power and natural gas to meet its demands. Energy storage stands as a viable solution.
For example, if the state’s utilities had the ability to bank energy in the shoulder seasons and deploy it in the summer, the state could potentially offset future blackouts.
Mitsubishi Power is an example of one manufacturer that’s embracing a culture of change by heavily investing in the potential of green hydrogen. The company is currently working on two ventures: the Advanced Clean Energy Storage (ACES) and Intermountain Power Projects. The culmination of these efforts may help California alleviate its curtailment concerns.
In 2025, California is scheduled to retire its last coal-fired power plant. The Intermountain Power Agency in Utah is intending to build a combined-cycle power plant to replace a significant portion of that capacity. The Intermountain Power Plant is aiming to use 30% green hydrogen as its fuel by 2025 and is planning to be capable of using 100% renewable power no later than 2045.
This hydrogen fuel will be stored in an underground salt dome directly below the power plant. Combustion turbines will convert this stored hydrogen renewable power into electricity when it’s needed. Stored energy will be transported between Utah and California using high-voltage direct current (HVDC) lines. Once the energy arrives, banks of electrolyzers will convert the excess power to hydrogen, which will then be stored underground.
This is an exciting time for the American energy sector. These next few years will likely represent the most rapid carbon emissions changes we’ll ever experience.
In the mechanical engineering industry, change begets opportunity. Be proactive — find your niche and pounce.