A green energy project announced Thursday will be the first of its kind in Vermont, with partners optimistic about possible implications for reducing greenhouse gases.
The pilot project aims to reduce carbon and will initially change the way a major manufacturing plant in Essex Junction is heated.
“This project will show the rest of the state and the world that carbon-free thermal power is possible,” said Neale Lunderville, CEO of natural gas company VGS.
VGS, the University of Vermont and GlobalFoundries on Thursday announced a partnership to study the use of green hydrogen at the GlobalFoundries plant in Essex Junction – which manufactures microchips used in many consumer products, including smartphones .
Hydrogen will be extracted from water on site using electricity from renewable sources such as solar power. It will then be powered by current natural gas lines, the partners explained.
Burning less gas would reduce emissions, the utility and manufacturer noted. However, they still have a lot to discover.
Upcoming questions include costs, how existing infrastructure will adapt to change, whether day-to-day operations will notice any differences, and how transferable the concept is to other sectors.
The University of Vermont said these and other questions are exciting for researchers and their students.
“These are things that students really want,” said Kirk Dombrowski, UVM’s vice president for research. “And if we don’t start sending our students out there, solving real-world problems, we’re going to be in trouble. Because the problems are increasing rapidly, right? And the more we learn about the impact we have on the planet, the more important it is that we start dealing with it right away.
If heating tests go well, onsite hydrogen could also be used to make the chip greener, VGS and GlobalFoundries said.
“Energy conservation is something we are passionate about,” Ken McAvey of GlobalFoundries said at the announcement site Thursday on the UVM campus.
Separately, GlobalFoundries is asking Montpelier regulators to allow it to start some sort of in-house power company, so it can buy power off the grid at a more affordable price than through its current utility. .
Critics fear the company will then circumvent state expectations to reduce greenhouse gas impacts, but Global insists it will continue to do its part, pointing to the hydrogen plan and other work to reduce its environmental impact.
“It is at our heart to be environmental stewards for the state,” McAvey told NECN.
The construction and launch of the green hydrogen system is expected next year, said the CEO of VGS. The utility has committed to funding the pilot, though federal grants may also come, the partners said.