Xcel taps Bloom Energy to install electrolyzer at Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant

Published on September 21, 2022 by Dave Kovaleski

© Bloom Energy

Bloom Energy has been tapped to install an electrolyzer at the Xcel Energy Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant in Welch, Minn., to produce clean hydrogen.

Bloom Energy’s electrolyzer operates at high temperatures to convert water into hydrogen. Pairing solid oxide electrolysis with nuclear energy technology is a preferred method of unlocking efficiencies. The high heat and steam produced by Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island facility feed into Bloom Energy’s electrolyzer to produce zero-carbon hydrogen more efficiently than low-temperature electrolysis alternatives like polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) or alkaline. These low-temperature alternatives require roughly 40 percent more electricity. This gives the Bloom electrolyzer an efficiency advantage that should drive down the cost of hydrogen production.

“Xcel Energy’s nuclear power plants already play a vital role in our energy mix, delivering clean, reliable, and affordable power for our customers while avoiding hundreds of millions of tons of emissions,” Peter Gardner, senior vice president and chief nuclear officer at Xcel Energy, said. “This project will provide a tremendous opportunity to better understand how our existing nuclear plants can contribute to the development of hydrogen technologies and build a carbon free future.”

Additionally, since the Prairie Island facility faces extreme winter weather annually, the Bloom Energy electrolyzer also offers resiliency benefits. It will be able to operate reliably and efficiently, even during harsh conditions.

“Xcel Energy has long championed what we at Bloom Energy know is true: Our net-zero future hinges on energy that’s not only clean but also resilient, accessible, and affordable,” said Rick Beuttel, vice president of hydrogen business at Bloom Energy. “In today’s climate of extreme weather, fluctuating costs, and global energy insecurity, hydrogen offers unmatched potential to leverage existing infrastructure for clean, abundant energy. Combined with Xcel Energy’s nuclear infrastructure, Bloom Energy’s solid oxide platform – which offers exceptional efficiency – can help us achieve our shared goal of an accessible net-zero future through low-cost, zero-carbon hydrogen.”

Engineering for the 240-kW demonstration is currently underway. Construction is expected to begin in late 2023, and power-on is scheduled for early 2024.