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VIEWPOINT: Energy procurement shows need for Delaware hydrogen

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Hydrogen electrolysis demo web

University of Delaware post-grad researcher Catherine Weiss demonstrates the simplest form of electrolysis, with electrical current splitting water molecules, drawing hydrogen bubbles to the cathode and oxygen to the anode. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

We read the recent Delaware Business Times story “Renewable Energy for Delaware Still Grows Out of State” with great interest.

Currently, Delaware produces less energy than any other state in the nation. In fact, a 2020 report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration indicated that Delaware used 75 times more energy than we produced. In other words, 98.6% of our energy is imported.

Reinventing Delaware Andrew Cottone Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation

Andrew Cottone, the entrant for the Clean Hydrogen idea, won a $15,000 prize for the 2023 Reinventing Delaware competition. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

Delaware is a state of firsts. From being first with inventions from gunpowder to Teflon, to first in credit cards, first as a corporate home to the Fortune 500 and a first in our beauty and location.

But, current clean energy sources like solar and wind are susceptible to intermittency. What happens when the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine? Solar is only a portion of the solution to tackle Delaware’s energy needs. Hydrogen, if produced with renewable sources, will afford profitable green energy that can impact our state and the mid-Atlantic region for generations to come.  

Hydrogen is a sustainable energy source and more effective than today’s sources. Think of hydrogen as packets of energy that can be more economically delivered to a wide diversity of end users. It is the lightest and most abundant element in the universe; a clean burning gas that contains three times more energy per unit of weight than fossil fuels and can be used in numerous applications – from industry to transportation to heat and power. 

Scott Malfitano Delaware Workforce Development Board CSC

Scott Malfitano | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

Delaware is a prime location for one the first clean hydrogen plants in the United States generating clean power – modeling the 200-megawatt electrolyzer in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and supporting infrastructure.  

The impact on the Delaware economy can be massive and place Delaware at the epicenter of the inevitable hydrogen energy economy revolutionizing the state and mid-Atlantic economy for decades.

The plant will utilize water from the Delaware River or public sources in an electrolysis process. Using electricity ideally generated from wind, solar or and other non-fossil fuel sources, this process splits water into hydrogen gas and oxygen gas. Our business model will even commercialize the residual water for an almost waste-free process.

Ultimately, the project seeks to create a multitude of high-paying jobs in Delaware and grow the state’s clean energy economy, with unprecedented economic growth, environmental equity, and social impact.

The questions associated with the coming hydrogen economy are not “if”, but “when and where.”  The answers to these questions should be Delaware and now.

This economy presents the United States with an opportunity to revolutionize profitable energy while meeting necessary climate mandates. Delaware, the lowest energy-producing state in the nation, can make a difference.

Andrew Cottone, PhD, is the 2023 Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation Reinventing Delaware winner and founder of Adesis. Scott Malfitano serves as chair of Delaware Workforce Development Board.

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