Power plants exist to make electricity, but most also produce a lot of heat. What if they could use that heat for other processes that require thermal energy? Today, roughly 40% of all energy is wasted. More efficient energy use would be better for the environment and for the plant owner. A power plant being used for both electricity and heat is called an integrated energy system. Integrated energy systems could couple nuclear, renewable and fossil energy sources. Such systems offer efficiencies that can lead to energy independence, economic competitiveness, job creation and smarter use of resources.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy supports a national laboratory Integrated Energy Systems (IES) Program. The program conducts research, development, and deployment activities to expand the role of nuclear energy beyond supporting the electricity grid. Expanded roles include supplying energy to various industrial, transportation and energy storage applications. Development of integrated energy systems may include multiple energy inputs (e.g., nuclear, renewable, and fossil with carbon capture), multiple energy users (e.g., grid consumers, industrial heat or electricity users, transportation fuel users), and multiple energy storage options (e.g., thermal, electrical and chemical). Focusing IES development on enhanced utilization of low- or non-emitting energy generation options within IES will help the U.S. to achieve the bold goals that have been established by the Biden administration to achieve a 100% clean energy economy (link) and net-zero emissions by 2050 (link).
Palo Verde Generating Station, a 4-GW nuclear power plant in Arizona, is gearing up to produce hydrogen from a LTE system, and that hydrogen will then be used to fuel a natural gas–fired power plant owned by Arizona Public Service. The innovative power-to-power demonstration led by PNW Hydrogen is set to receive $20 million in federal funding, including $12 million from the DOE’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office and $8 million from DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy.
Hydrogen is a simple element, the lightest on the periodic table consisting of just one proton and one electron, but it can pack a powerful punch. Hydrogen fuels the stars, including our own sun, which is the ultimate source of the vast majority of the Earth’s energy, and it can be used across different industries.
Nuclear power operators can mitigate high costs by fitting plants to produce hydrogen, and studies have found that the cheapest option for the growing hydrogen economy is to include nuclear in the energy mix. Hydrogen is increasingly seen as an essential fuel to power a future, carbon-free economy.
Nuclear hydrogen can be a “game changer” in the fight against climate change by decarbonising heavy industry, energy storage and even synthetic fuel production as part of a clean energy transition, a side event at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s general conference in Vienna was told.
Nuclear and renewables are the two principal options for low [carbon] emission energy generation,” points out the call document, which is entitled ‘Technical Evaluation and Optimisation of Nuclear-Renewable Hybrid Energy Systems’.