It’s important to start with a premise: there’s still a long way to go in “promoting” hydrogen as a green fuel that can replace fossil fuels.
However, the race of the Regions has begun, though in no particular order. Piedmont will contribute as well. The possibility of obtaining extraordinary funds through the PNRR has boosted the design phase and may hasten the development of industrial solutions. Turin and Piedmont can look forward to some interesting junctions in the hydrogen supply chain, which will be merged into the Hydrogen Valley project, which will help the NRP allocate extraordinary resources.
Iren, Enviroment Park, a technology park led by the Piedmont Region that has an Open Lab dedicated to the study and development of hydrogen technologies, the Italian Institute of Technology, IIT, which in Turin launched the Center for Sustainable Technology Future, Acea Pinerolese, and industrial players such as Fpt, Cnh Industrial Group, which works on the development of hydrogen technologies, are among the protagonists. Pieces of a puzzle that are still difficult to put together, but that could take shape with a good vision and some extraordinary resources.
“The advantage of Piedmont lies in the fact that it has an industrial fabric and some industries ready to convert and start the hydrogen supply chain,” says Matteo Marnati, Piedmont’s councilor for Research and Innovation. On this front, the Region has opened an expression of interest, and a sort of mapping has emerged, which coincides with private individuals declaring their availability. Parallel to this, there is a bet on the Region’s new Energy Plan, which aims to increase the share of renewables from 18 to 30% by 2030 through investments in photovoltaic fields in decommissioned industrial areas.
The first possible application, at least in the “One Mole of Hydrogen” project at the heart of the Hydrogen Valley of Piedmont proposal, could be transportation and mobility. Two hydrogen production plants powered by renewable energy, which Iren could build near the Gerbido waste-to-energy plant and at the hydroelectric plant in San Mauro Torinese, are at the heart of the proposal. The project envisions a maximum hydrogen production rate of 6 tons per day, enough to power 280 buses with a daily average distance of 200 kilometers or, alternatively, other services such as a railway line converted from diesel to hydrogen, a fleet of waste collection vehicles, or a fleet of logistics operators, according to estimates.
In Piedmont, a second hydrogen reference center could be found in the Novara area, where one of the few Italian companies producing silicon wafers uses hydrogen as a vehicle in the manufacturing process. From a supply chain standpoint, it’s also an interesting area because of the presence of chemical companies – which use hydrogen in their manufacturing processes -, because it’s a major logistic hub with CIM, and because it’s a hub for non-electrified railway lines like Novara-Biella. The hydrogen supply chain, which includes the manufacture of fuel cells and electrolysers, is extensive. The challenge is to encourage businesses to take positions along the value chain.