Energy derived from hydrogen is emerging as an alternative source of renewable energy. And in recent weeks, two hydrogen-related startups have taken big steps in their development.
Electric Hydrogen, a pioneer in the development of “green hydrogen,” recently gained a valuation in excess of $1 billion after receiving $380 million in funding from investors including BP, United Airlines, and Microsoft, according to The Wall Street Journal.
And Universal Hydrogen, which is retrofitting existing aircraft to allow them to run on hydrogen fuel, achieved its latest milestone on September 26 when the Universal UH2 hydrogen-powered aircraft took off and landed safely after a 15-to-20-minute flight over California’s Mojave Desert, according to an account of the flight in the Mojave Desert News.
Much of the excitement surrounding Natick, Mass.-based Electric Hydrogen is tied to the unicorn’s success in producing green hydrogen, the cleanest and most renewable form of hydrogen energy. Unlike the more common gray hydrogen, which is derived from natural gas, green hydrogen employs electrolysis, which separates hydrogen and oxygen molecules by applying electrical energy to water.
According to the Journal article on October 2, green hydrogen is the “holy grail of clean-energy technologies,” and Electric Hydrogen’s key competitive advantage lies in the efficient and affordable way it processes green hydrogen. “At a lab 25 miles west of Boston, the company’s engineers made all of the critical electrolyzer components in-house, following Tesla’s model,” the Journal said. “Electric Hydrogen says that its performance gains combined with the generous government subsidies will let it make green hydrogen that is competitive in today’s market.”
Meanwhile, Universal Hydrogen announced in a press release that the September 26 test flight marks the beginning of a two-year flight test campaign that will continue to optimize the performance of the company’s hydrogen fuel cell powertrain. The Hawthorne, Calif.-based company will also begin certification testing to prove that the production configuration of the aircraft meets all the FAA-mandated airworthiness and safety requirements. Founded in 2020, the company’s last-known valuation was $243 million as of October 2021.
Helion Energy partners with steelmaker Nucor to develop a fusion power plant
Meanwhile, Helion Energy, which is developing electric power plants fueled by nuclear fusion, is achieving milestones of its own.
The Everett, Wash.-based company recently announced a partnership with steelmaker Nucor to develop a 500-megawatt fusion power plant at a Nucor steel manufacturing facility in the United States. The plant is expected to be online by 2028 and the deal includes an investment in Helion by Nucor. “This collaboration is aimed at accelerating the future of clean energy in the industrial manufacturing sector,” the release stated.
Helion, whose last-known valuation as of September 2023 was $5.4 billion, signed an agreement in May with Microsoft to provide the software giant with electricity produced by its first power plant fueled by nuclear fusion. While nuclear fission – a process created by the splitting of atoms – has been a commercially viable electrical energy source since the 1950s, nuclear fusion arguably holds greater promise for society because it creates less radioactive material than fission and has a nearly unlimited fuel supply.