Energy Lunch Recap: Renewable Hydrogen in Iowa

by Nicholas Romano, Green Iowa Corps Education Coordinator

Ideal Energy

A leader in Iowa solar industries since 2009, Ideal Energy has engaged in solar installation, financing, power purchasing agreements, battery storage, and now research into the Gren Hydrogen arena. Amy Vanbeek  and Troy Vanbeek co-founded Ideal Energy after recognizing the need for renewable energy based on the world’s reliance on finite carbon-based energy sources. Now they are piloting the production of Renewable Hydrogen for energy storage, reducing emissions in fertilizer production, transportation, and more. Ideal Energy is working with the Iowa Economic Development Authority to bring Iowa’s resources and infrastructure together and build robust and renewable energy sources by using Renewable Hydrogen. 

Hydrogen Explained

There exists a massive need to reduce the amount of carbon being output by the world’s global energy systems. Hydrogen is easily produced by splitting water molecules and can be used to make ammonia; an energy-dense and easy to store chemical commonly used in Iowa as an agricultural fertilizer. 

Currently, Hydrogen is created predominantly from fossil fuels; 76% from natural gas using steam methane reform and 24% from coal using coal gasification. While hydrogen is used in the production of petroleum-based fuels and steel, the majority is used to manufacture ammonia fertilizer. Traditional ammonia production accounts for almost 2% of the world’s carbon emissions.  Using Renewable Hydrogen to produce ammonia can drastically reduce carbon emissions.

Three Types of Hydrogen Production and Technology

  • Brown Hydrogen: Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide are released as pollution.
  • Blue Hydrogen: Carbon Dioxide is isolated through carbon capture and storage.
  • Green Hydrogen: Electricity comes from renewable energy sources.

Renewable (Green) Hydrogen in Iowa

Iowa provides access to massive amounts of low-cost PV and wind power, making it one of the best states for renewable Hydrogen production. Growing demand for renewable fuels and ammonia production will drive a growing desire for renewable Hydrogen in Iowa. 

The Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) has the highest wind curtailment rate (excess power that can not be used due to other factors) at 4.2%.  This power has the potential to be used in Renewable Hydrogen production at an inexpensive cost. Using the current overproduction of wind power in Iowa, it is possible for Renewable Hydrogen to cost around $2/kg.  As the industry scales, it is very likely that the cost of renewable Hydrogen will only get lower. 

Main Use of Renewable Hydrogen in Iowa and Economic Impact

Currently, Hydrogen has the potential to be used in blended with natural gas to power transit buses, energy storage, and at Hydrogen production sites at wind farms to take advantage of cheap excess energy. The future for Hydrogen could include use in heavy trucking, fueling maritime transit, aviation fuel, and decarbonizing fertilizer production. 

Like all renewables, Renewable Hydrogen has the potential to generate billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. In terms of jobs created per terawatt/hr, Renewable Hydrogen will generate more jobs than wind power and about half as many jobs as solar. The projected amount of jobs created by Renewable Hydrogen in Iowa is about 7,000 jobs by 2050. 

Hydrogen can be blended into the Iowa natural gas grid at 5% (up to 15%) with 0% risk to the safety, longevity, and operation of gas appliances. Iowa harbors part of the busiest freight rail line in the U.S., has 100 general aviation airports, and is bordered by the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Tapping into this transportation system and selling Renewable Hydrogen as fuel shows great potential. Ammonia can be made by using Renewable Hydrogen, making it fantastic for the environment and a great strategic economic move of tapping into an almost $77 billion dollar ammonia market.

Ideal Energy Pilot Projects

With so many possible use case scenarios existing for Renewable Hydrogen, Ideal Energy is working on and currently seeking partnerships to pilot Renewable Hydrogen projects in Iowa. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides almost $10 billion in funding towards clean Hydrogen programs and there is tremendous opportunity for partnership and growth.


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