Italian company Enel SpA made renewable energy history this week when it opened the world’s first hydrogen-driven power plant to produce a significant amount of electricity in Fusina, Italy. The plant, located just outside Venice, will produce 16 megawatts of power, or enough energy for 20,000 homes. Enel’s power plant will also save 17,000 tons of CO2 emissions compared to a coal plant.
Enel gets around the conundrum that many hydrogen producers face (generating hydrogen power without sucking up too much energy in the process) by using hydrogen byproducts from Porto Marghera, a neighboring petrochemicals site.
Don’t expect this to be the beginning of a boom in hydrogen-powered plants, however. Hydrogen power still costs five times as much as power produced from coal, and Enel believes it will be decades before the substance becomes competitive. Still, the Fusina plant is a necessary step in proving that hydrogen power can be viable on a large scale.