LANCASTER — The City, which bills itself as the nation’s first city to embrace hydrogen power, reached out to Japan to enlist partner municipalities in the development and use of hydrogen as a new generation clean fuel.
Mayor R. Rex Parris hosted Japanese government officials on Nov. 6 to discuss pairing Lancaster with a “smart” city in Japan which is equally devoted to integrating hydrogen into its power grid, fuel distribution, storage, and use.
“This is going to mean thousands of jobs, and billions, and I’m saying that with a ‘b’ invested into our economy,” Parris said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Parris has committed to a hydrogen transition at previous City Council meetings. He challenged other cities around the world to choose hydrogen as well.
Lancaster has a proven record of being the first in renewable energy solutions, demonstrating an ability to execute on energy initiatives. Parris is confident that Japan may be the first stop on a pathway for cities around the world to shift into using hydrogen.
Parris developed a vision for hydrogen as a new way to further decarbonize the city — a mission he embarked on over a decade ago. He attracted companies that have already built innovative hydrogen projects and are being developed with major companies like Hitachi Zosen Inova.
He then developed a comprehensive plan for the City to achieve its hydrogen goals, announcing it publicly at City Council meetings to involve local residents and educate the public on the benefits of hydrogen to Lancaster. Recently, more companies and other cities have seen Lancaster’s success and want to join the movement by following the city’s plan.
Hydrogen has wide-reaching benefits, including improving the air quality, providing a secure and reliable energy source, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating highly skilled jobs. Hydrogen is abundant in the environment. Hydrogen can be produced from diverse domestic resources with the potential of near-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Hydrogen as an alternative fuel stems from its ability to power fuel cells with domestic production, fast fueling times, and high efficiency. About half of the US population lives in areas where air pollution levels are high enough to negatively impact public health and the environment.
“Hydrogen is the future, it is the decarbonization strategy of the future, and we will lead the effort with other cities following in Lancaster’s footsteps,” Parris told the delegation from Japan, which included Mr. Imai, Consul of the Consulate General of Japan and Mr. Saeki, Executive Director of the Japan External Trade Organization. “Lancaster is America’s first hydrogen city.”
Lancaster is beginning sister-city type relationships with other cities seeking to emulate Lancaster’s strategy, sharing a roadmap. Mayor Parris envisions other Tier-2 cities as excellent candidates.
“The transition to hydrogen does not have to be limited to the world’s most famous large cities,” he said. “In fact, cities our size can do some things they can’t. Current plans include building out hydrogen fueling stations for light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles. We support the state’s goals for GHG reductions and hydrogen is a great way to get there faster.”
In a recent grant from the state, most of the $100 million grant was dedicated to large, urban population centers. Lancaster is not deterred.
After the development of a huge solar generation capacity, the City Council realized that the City had the power to dramatically impact the energy status quo. Many changes couldn’t happen at the state or federal level.
Lancaster formed its own utility company, Lancaster Choice Energy, and offered residents locally-generated green energy at lower prices and generating revenue for the City. Lancaster continued on to become the first city to go net-zero, generating more clean energy than consumed. Lancaster was also the first city to require all new homes to have solar and with community partners were able to build the first large scale all-electric bus fleet.
“Along the way, we realized that electrons are not necessarily the best medium for storing energy,” the mayor explained of the shift in strategy. “Hydrogen can be stored easily and for long periods of time, even in the existing gas grid. It’s the perfect resource for balancing the grid with our large amount of intermittent renewable resources, which only work when the sun shines and the wind blows.”
SGH2 is bringing a green hydrogen production facility to Lancaster. The plant will gasify recycled mixed paper waste to produce green hydrogen that reduces carbon emissions by two to three times more than green hydrogen produced using electrolysis and renewable energy, and is five to seven times cheaper. Developed by NASA scientist Dr. Salvador Camacho and SGH2 CEO Dr. Robert T. Do, a biophysicist, and physician, the City of Lancaster will host and co-own the green hydrogen production facility.