Electric Vehicles

Douglas PUD receives $1.9 million to develop first hydrogen fueling station in Wash.

Douglas County Public Utility District, with its partners, has received a $1.9 million grant from the Centralia Coal Transition Board to fund a demonstration project for the first hydrogen fueling station for fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) in Washington state.

Douglas PUD’s partners in the project are the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, the Renewable Hydrogen Alliance, and Toyota Motor North America.

The Renewable Hydrogen Demonstration Project aims to lay the foundation for the expected growth of zero-emission personal and heavy-duty hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles.

The majority of the grant from the Centralia Coal Transition Board will be used to fund a fueling station for fuel cell electric vehicles. The station, which will be sited roughly halfway between Seattle and Portland, is expected to open late in 2021 and will likely be used to fuel fleet vehicles, Meaghan Vibbert, public information officer at Douglas County PUD, said.

The plan calls for the fueling station to use hydrogen from a Douglas County PUD electrolyzer, which splits water into oxygen and hydrogen. The PUD’s electrolyzer will be able to produce the gas renewably because it will be powered by hydroelectric resources. Douglas County PUD is still in the process of procuring the site for the electrolyzer, which is expected to be completed in about a year, Vibbert said. The hydrogen and oxygen the electrolyzer produces has a variety of uses, including as a transportation fuel and as a feedstock to produce fertilizer.

The public power utility will likely use the funds to purchase a tractor trailer capable of transporting hydrogen produced at an electrolyzer unit in East Wenatchee to the proposed fueling station.

 “I am excited to see the Centralia Coal Transition Board and Douglas County PUD move forward with this innovative project,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee said in a statement. “As Washington continues to transition to a clean energy economy, zero-emission fuels – like renewable hydrogen – can play an important role in decarbonizing our transportation, energy and industrial sectors.”

There is bipartisan support to develop renewable hydrogen production capability in Washington State, beginning with Republican Sen. Brad Hawkins’ sponsorship of SB 5588 in 2019, which created the authority for the state’s public utility districts to produce and distribute renewable hydrogen.

Another bill, HB 2042, the Green Transportation Act, passed in 2019 and included incentives for the development of renewable hydrogen production and distribution infrastructure.

In 2020, Republican state representative Mike Steele included $250,000 in the state’s supplemental capital budget to support Douglas County PUD’s hydrogen production pilot project.

The funds were earmarked to help pay for design and engineering work by RH2 Engineering. Douglas PUD bought the electrolyzer from Hydrogenics Corp. for $9.5 million.