Economic Alliance Talks Plans for Hydrogen-Power Initiatives as Part of New Energy Innovation Coalition

Twin Transit Gives Timeline for Three Hydrogen-Fueling Stations Coming Within 24 Months


Hydrogen-powered conversations gripped the Economic Alliance of Lewis County’s luncheon Wednesday as community members spoke about hydrogen as a renewable energy source.

Twin Transit Executive Director Joe Clark spoke at the event, kicking off his presentation by speaking about the region’s Energy Innovation Coalition, which currently has 63 nonprofit, governmental, public and private members. The coalition is working toward a shift in the county’s energy production toward that of renewable energy sources.

To preface Clark’s presentation, Alliance Executive Director Richard DeBolt gave some comments regarding the Alliance’s work recruiting clean-energy organizations to the region. He alluded to the unnamed hydrogen-related entity that DeBolt announced last week would bring $600 million to the local economy. Details won’t be announced until May 12, he said.

“As people come into our community, and they want to locate a business in Lewis County, our job is to help coordinate and help them find a spot. That’s what we do. That’s it — 100% right there,” DeBolt said. “As we move forward, there’s a lot of things going on around the hydrogen space.”

“Just to let you know, as we’re moving forward on some of these bigger projects, one of the things we can tell you is that our new project will be a green hydrogen project and be 100% renewable energy,” DeBolt said. “And it will also be a ‘used in Washington state’ project, because of the optic agreements that they have, and we are really excited about the opportunity to be seeing this kind of investment in this community.

Other than the potential recruitment of the hydrogen-related company, some of the coalition's initiatives also have to do with hydrogen — specifically hydrogen fueling.

Hydrogen is the most abundant element on Earth and can power a variety of applications, including vehicles.

In his presentation, Clark said hydrogen is seen as valuable due to its capability to produce power without carbon emissions. Hydrogen fuel cells are similar to traditional gas-powered cars, Clark said, and there are currently over 30 hydrogen stations in California today, with much more emphasis on hydrogen power taking place in Europe and Asia.

As DeBolt stated, the new entity coming to Lewis County will be using what is called green hydrogen, which is hydrogen power that is generated using a process called electrolysis, powered by renewable electricity. Electrolysis uses electricity to “break” the hydrogen off of a water molecule (H20), separating the hydrogen from the oxygen to extract the usable dihydrogen H2.

Twin Transit and its partners in the Energy Innovation Coalition currently have multiple hydrogen projects in the works other than those of the anticipated newcomer organization, which will all be using green hydrogen, Clark said.

Even though Twin Transit is currently adding electric buses to its fleet, it really has its eyes set on hydrogen buses.

Clark said Twin Transit's fleet of hydrogen buses should arrive by late 2024 to early 2025.

Hydrogen buses are powered by what is called an electric powertrain, where fuel cells convert the chemical energy of hydrogen into electrical energy. The hydrogen on these buses will be stored in compressed tanks, typically stored on a given vehicle’s roof. Notably, the hydrogen-fuel-cell buses produce no tailpipe emissions and are capable of having zero net emissions altogether, Clark said.

The first big goal of the coalition’s hydrogen-fueling plans is to have one hydrogen-fueling station per 100 miles along Interstate 5, and on main freeways and highways in Eastern Washington.

For Twin Transit’s part in the coalition, it will assist in the construction of three hydrogen fueling stations within the next 24 months, Clark said, with the funding for these stations already obtained.

“The first one will be located in the Port of Chehalis, the second one will be located at Exit 68, and the third one will be at the Chehalis-Centralia Airport,” Clark said. “The one at the Port of Chehalis is built around an industrial application, meaning that it’s there to support heavy-duty trucks, drainage equipment, forklifts, things of that nature.”

The Port of Chehalis hydrogen-fueling station should be constructed by about mid-summer 2023, Clark said.

The hydrogen station at I-5 Exit 68 will be done by a public-private partnership in fuel-distribution services, where some gas stations around the area will help create a retail environment there to spur the adoption of hydrogen technology, Clark said. The station off of Exit 68 could be complete by September 2023, according to the presentation.

The Chehalis-Centralia Airport was awarded an aviation renewable grant by the Washington state Department of Transportation to place a “gaseous hydrogen trailer” there to fuel airplanes. This airport station could be finished as early as March 2024, the presentation stated.

Ultimately, the coalition’s goal is to pattern the county’s energy production after the Hydrogen Valley in the Netherlands, called Heavenn, which holds all means to produce hydrogen power for its region all in one geographic place.

“This model is really about a community-based implementation of hydrogen in a way that homes would be powered by it, factories would be powered by it, vehicles would run on it,” Clark said. “These kinds of communities are what we are patterning our efforts around, really trying to create a hydrogen valley if not just for Lewis County, but for the entire state.”