WEC utility joins EPRI in Hydrogen Pilot Project at Michigan power plant

Jan. 28, 2022
The H2-natural gas mix will be used to power reciprocating internal combustion engines (RICE) providing electricity for Upper Michigan Energy Resources.

One of the upper Midwest’s biggest power utility groups is going to test hydrogen as a hybrid fuel source at one of its subsidiary power plants.

Wisconsin-based WEC Energy Group will be hosting a pilot project to test co-firing of hydrogen with natural gas at one power plant in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. During the pilot project, the hydrogen will be mixed in up to 25 percent of the blend.

The mix will be used to power reciprocating internal combustion engines (RICE) providing power for Upper Michigan Energy Resources. Wärtsilä made and deliver the RICE engines which went into service nearly three years ago.

WEC is partnering with the Electric Power Research Institute to study the impact of hydrogen in the generation mix. Hydrogen is carbon-free, but also a lighter gas which creates challenges for combustors and other components in engines and turbines.

EPRI will lead the technical implementation of the WEC H2 project. Its finding will help educate the energy industry on how hydrogen performs for power generation.

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"Demonstration projects like this one are critical to advancing clean energy technologies needed to meet net-zero goals," said EPRI CEO Arshad Mansoor. "This project will provide key insights on how this could be replicated throughout the country, providing energy companies with a suite of solutions to reduce carbon emissions. We look forward to working with WEC Energy Group and other energy stakeholders throughout the clean energy transition."

Other companies and utilities are moving toward H2 demonstration projects. Mitsubishi Power is working with Intermountain Power Agency on introducing hydrogen up to 30 percent at a new power project in Utah.

WEC Energy Group itself has announced the goal of net-zero carbon emissions from electric generation by 2050 an net-zero methane emissions from natural gas distribution by 2030.

"We're pleased to take a leading role in testing hydrogen in our modern natural gas fueled generation units," said Gale Klappa, executive chairman. "As we bring more renewable energy online, we must ensure that we can keep the lights on when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. The potential of adding hydrogen as a clean generating fuel to our fleet of dispatchable plants is an important step as we bridge to a bright, sustainable future."

WEC Energy Group generates and delivers power to 4.6 million customers in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota. Among its utilities include We Energies, Wisconsin Public Service, Peoples Gas, Minnesota Energy Resources and Upper Michigan Energy Resources.

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(Rod Walton, senior editor for EnergyTech, is a 14-year veteran of covering the energy industry both as a newspaper and trade journalist. He can reached at [email protected]).

About the Author

Rod Walton, EnergyTech Managing Editor | Senior Editor

For EnergyTech editorial inquiries, please contact Managing Editor Rod Walton at [email protected].

Rod Walton has spent 15 years covering the energy industry as a newspaper and trade journalist. He formerly was energy writer and business editor at the Tulsa World. Later, he spent six years covering the electricity power sector for Pennwell and Clarion Events. He joined Endeavor and EnergyTech in November 2021.

Walton earned his Bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. His career stops include the Moore American, Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, Wagoner Tribune and Tulsa World. 

EnergyTech is focused on the mission critical and large-scale energy users and their sustainability and resiliency goals. These include the commercial and industrial sectors, as well as the military, universities, data centers and microgrids. The C&I sectors together account for close to 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

He was named Managing Editor for Microgrid Knowledge and EnergyTech starting July 1, 2023

Many large-scale energy users such as Fortune 500 companies, and mission-critical users such as military bases, universities, healthcare facilities, public safety and data centers, shifting their energy priorities to reach net-zero carbon goals within the coming decades. These include plans for renewable energy power purchase agreements, but also on-site resiliency projects such as microgrids, combined heat and power, rooftop solar, energy storage, digitalization and building efficiency upgrades.