$504 million DOE loan closes on ACES project


Secretary Granholm says facility offers major boost toward President Biden’s clean grid goals 

U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm announced last week the closing of a $504 million loan guarantee set to jumpstart development of the green hydrogen Advanced Clean Energy Storage project outside Delta.

The loan commitment represents the first major federal investment in a clean energy project of this scale in almost a decade. 

S1 GRANHOLM 5423Jennifer Granholm

“My mantra as secretary of energy is deploy, deploy, deploy. President Biden set this series of bold clean energy goals—100 percent clean electricity by 2035, net zero by 2050—and the only way to hit those goals is to scale deployment of clean energy technologies as quickly as possible,” Granholm said during a press conference last Wednesday. 

The funds are part of $40 billion set aside by the Biden Administration to go toward energy projects nationwide, the secretary said. 

The Energy Department’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) gave conditional approval of the financial commitment in April. 

“And they’ve spent the last 15 months reviewing dozens of applications for projects that need tens of millions if not hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars in financing,” Granholm said. 

Jigar Shah, LPO’s director, said his agency is reviewing as many as 77 applications seeking $77 billion in loans and loan guarantees. The Advanced Clean Energy Storage project is the agency’s first green hydrogen loan ever and the first clean energy loan closed since 2011. 

The project is under construction adjacent to the Intermountain Power Plant, which has agreed to purchase green hydrogen to burn in the natural gas and hydrogen power plant set to replace its current coal-fired operations in 2025. 

Advanced Clean Energy Storage will start life as two giant caverns carved out of the salt domes that sit hundreds of feet below the ground. The caverns will be so big they could each fit the Empire State Building inside them. That size translates to a storage capacity of 150 gigawatt hours of green hydrogen each. 

“To put that into perspective, we are projecting that there will be about 150 gigawatt hours in utility-scale battery storage on the nation’s entire electric grid by 2030, the same as this one salt cavern in Utah,” Shah told reporters. 

Michael Ducker, president of Advanced Clean Energy Storage I and senior vice president of hydrogen infrastructure for Mitsubishi Power, described how power supply and demand in the West was often out of balance, with renewable sources of electricity, such as wind, solar and geothermal, providing an excess of power when it was not needed. 

The inverse was also true— when demand for such power is high, there is often not enough of it available. 

Developing an industrial-scale storage solution would correct this imbalance, he said, adding that when demand is low and supply is high, excess renewable energy would power the 225 megawatts worth of electrolyzers—the other leg of the ACES project—used to produce hydrogen from water. 

“Just to put three items into perspective, on the scale, magnitude and importance of this project, first the entire worldwide installed base of electrolyzers at the end of 2020 was 250 megawatts. This project alone will nearly double worldwide capacity with 225 megawatts being installed at our site,” he told reporters. 

Ducker added that hydrogen has already been stored in similar geologic structures successfully for decades. The amount of storage in ACES, he said, will immediately increase global stored hydrogen by 65 percent. 

In response to a reporter’s question, Ducker said the two caverns under construction represent only a tiny fraction of the site’s potential overall storage capacity. Long-term expansion plans envision as many as 70 caverns in operation. 

The storage of energy would represent only one component of such a large-scale enterprise. Decarbonizing industrial enterprises would be another—this includes hydrogen for green ammonia production, hydrogen to power steel production, and more. 

Initial benefits locally from the ACES project include the creation of at least 25 full-time, permanent operations jobs, 400 temporary construction jobs and a giant windfall for Utah education in the form of royalties paid to the state’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, or SITLA, which owns the salt domes underground. 

“In this first phase alone, nearly $100 million will be generated to support investments in the state and local school system,” Ducker said. 

Once operational, ACES would become the largest clean energy storage facility on the planet. 

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