Plug’s California Green Hydrogen Plant Saves Water, Creates New Energy Source

December 6, 2022

With climate change driving an unprecedented drought in the Western United States, it is critical that the transition to renewable energy make the most efficient use of water possible. That is the case in Mendota, California where Plug is building a green hydrogen plant that will produce hydrogen from treated sewage.

As part of building the green hydrogen production plant in Mendota, Plug is building a tertiary water treatment plant for the city. The plant will take treated sewage effluent or secondary treated water, currently being disposed of in evaporation ponds, and produce recycled or “purple pipe” water that can be used for industrial purposes such as green hydrogen production. Recycled water cannot be used for human consumption or for food crop irrigation, but can be used for irrigation of sports fields, parks, other city landscaping needs, and non-food agricultural uses.

Because of the soil geology in this part of California, Mendota has had to use extensive evaporation ponds to dispose of the secondary treated water. When completed, the new tertiary water treatment plant the city can reduce the land needed for evaporation ponds and has a new source of water.

 “The project is a huge win for the City of Mendota, and we are very happy to see this significant investment in clean energy in our community,” said Mendota Mayor Rolando Castro in a 2021 press release announcing the green hydrogen production plant. “This green-hydrogen plant will provide full time high-paying jobs for our people. The city will also get a new wastewater treatment plant to provide recycled water for the city and all the needs of the hydrogen plant.”

The tertiary water treatment plant, which is expected to be complete by 2025, will produce 1.2 million gallons of recycled water per day. About 120,000 gallons of that water will be used at Plug’s green hydrogen production plant. In turn, about 30 metric tons per day of liquid green hydrogen will be produced using a 300-megawatt zero-carbon solar farm to power 120 megawatts of Plug’s state-of-the-art PEM electrolyzers, which split water into hydrogen and oxygen through an electro-chemical process.

California green hydrogen plant

When construction is finished, the tertiary water treatment plant will be given to the City of Mendota to own and operate, and the hydrogen plant will purchase the recycled water it needs at normal commercial rates. Beyond the benefits of additional water supply, securing this long-term water source for hydrogen production was fundamental to creating up to 50 high-paying and long-term jobs for members of the community in an economically disadvantaged area.

“This project showcases what can happen when market pull, innovation and public policy intersect – privately financed, large scale, zero-carbon hydrogen transportation fuel that creates jobs in a key region: Fresno County,” said Dee Dee Myers, Senior Advisor to Governor Newsom and Director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. “We commend Plug for investing in a clean, sustainable future in California and beyond.”

The project is currently in the process of completing an Environmental Impact Review under California’s CEQA law of the entire project including the water treatment plant, solar farm and hydrogen plant. After the EIR is completed, Plug will apply for the standard construction permits to move forward with the project.

The California green hydrogen plant joins the company’s growing national network of plants in New York, Tennessee, and Georgia that will supply 500 tons per day of liquid green hydrogen by 2025, offsetting 4.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, and 1,000 tons per day globally by 2028.

When fully built, the network of plants in the U.S. will offer transportation fuel to customers that is price-competitive with diesel. Plug’s investment in green hydrogen production will contribute to decarbonizing light-duty vehicles, freight-transportation, and logistics operations, and supports California’s leading role in developing hydrogen as a zero-emission fuel.