In 2020, the world’s largest green hydrogen plant opened in Fukushima, Japan. What are its characteristics?
Known primarily for the tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster of 2011, the city of Fukushima is now one of the leaders in the production of another type of energy: right here is the Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field (often abbreviated as FH2R), the world’s largest green hydrogen production facility.
The facility opened in 2020 and is powered mainly by solar panels (20 MW of power) installed around its perimeter. According to data provided by the Japanese government, the 10 MW facility is capable of producing enough hydrogen each day to power about 150 homes for a month, or to recharge the batteries of 560 electric vehicles.
The hydrogen plant in Fukushima
The FH2R was built in Namie, about 250 km away from Tokyo and not far from the nuclear power plant involved in the 2011 disaster. The facility is capable of producing about 1,200 m3 of green hydrogen every hour and was built in just two years, from 2018 to 2020. One of the advantages of this facility is that the hydrogen produced can be stored so that it can meet fluctuations in supply and demand in the power grid market in a timely manner. These are the words of Eiji Ohira, general manager of the fuel cell and hydrogen group of the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO):
“The facility deals with hydrogen production, storage, supply, balancing supply and demand in the electricity grid, as well as processing hydrogen to facilitate the production of fuel cells for cars and buses.”
In fact, hydrogen is already beginning to permeate Japanese society, much more than it is doing with Italian society: it is no coincidence that the Land of the Rising Sun was the first to produce a hydrogen fuel cell car, and the presence of Ene-Farm cells to power homes is becoming increasingly common throughout Japan. Just think that even the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics were powered by hydrogen!
Japan and hydrogen
The construction of this plant is part of a larger program by the Japanese government, which has set a goal of becoming a world leader in hydrogen production by 2050.
In fact, other intermediate ones have been planned before this goal, such as a production of 2 million tons per year by 2025-a figure that must rise to 20 million by 2050, with a cost not exceeding two dollars per kilo. Again echoing the words of Eiji Ohira:
“Hydrogen is the key to sustainable development, it can be produced from various resources, it does not emit greenhouse gases, it can be stored, transported, exported and used in various sectors, it can decarbonize transportation, energy consumption of industries, heating and electricity of buildings. Most importantly, it does not compete with other renewable energies but complements them.”
This, however, will not be an easy challenge. Prior to 2011, about 30 percent of the country’s energy needs were met by nuclear power — dropping to 6 percent after the Fukushima disaster. As of today, therefore, the remaining 94 percent of Japan’s energy needs are met by coal (25 percent), natural gas (23 percent), oil (39 percent), and only to a small extent by renewables (7 percent).