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Cell Reports Physical Science · 2020

Can Industrial-Scale Solar Hydrogen Supplied from Commodity Technologies Be Cost Competitive by 2030?

Dharik Sanchan Mallapragada, Emre Gençer, Patrick Insinger, David William Keith, Francis Martin O’Sullivan

Expanding decarbonization efforts beyond the power sector are contingent on cost-effective production of energy carriers, like H₂, with near-zero life-cycle carbon emissions. Here, we assess the levelized cost of continuous H₂ supply (95% availability) at industrial-scale quantities (~100 tonnes/day) in 2030 from integrating commodity technologies for solar photovoltaics, electrolysis, and energy storage. Our approach relies on modeling the least-cost plant design and operation that optimize component sizes while adhering to hourly solar availability, production requirements, and component inter-temporal operating constraints. We apply the model to study H₂ production costs spanning the continental United States and, through extensive sensitivity analysis, explore system configurations that can achieve $2.5/kg levelized costs or less for a range of plausible 2030 technology projections at high-irradiance locations. Notably, we identify potential sites and system configurations where PV-electrolytic H2 could substitute natural gas-derived H₂ at avoided CO₂ costs (≤$120/ton), similar to the cost of deploying carbon capture and sequestration.

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