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The first U.K. houses where appliances including boilers, stoves and ovens are fueled exclusively by hydrogen are due to be opened by April, with authorities hoping the buildings will provide the public with “a glimpse into the potential home of the future.”
The project to develop the two semi-detached properties has received £250,000 (around $347,175) in funding from the U.K. government’s Hy4Heat program.
In addition, two companies — Northern Gas Networks and Cadent — will each provide £250,000 for the initiative. The homes will be located at a Northern Gas Networks site in Low Thornley, Gateshead, in the northeast of England.
The broad idea behind the development — the homes have not been designed to be lived in — is to highlight how hydrogen could eventually replace natural gas, a fossil fuel, in a domestic environment. To this end, members of the public will be allowed to visit the buildings and see how the hydrogen-fueled appliances function.
“Unlike natural gas, which is responsible for over 30% of the UK’s carbon emissions, hydrogen produces no carbon at the point of use, with the only by-product being water,” the government said Tuesday.
Described by the International Energy Agency as a “versatile energy carrier,” hydrogen has a diverse range of applications and can be deployed in sectors such as industry and transport. Examples of its use in the latter include trains, airplanes, cars and buses powered using hydrogen fuel cells.
Hydrogen can be generated using electrolysis, which splits water into oxygen and hydrogen. If the electricity in the process comes from a renewable source then the end product is dubbed “green hydrogen.”
The hydrogen gas used at the homes in Gateshead will come in bottled form to begin with, although in future green hydrogen could be used.
The project is part of a wider effort to decarbonize the U.K. Towards the end of 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson released details of a 10-point plan for a so-called “green industrial revolution.”
That plan includes the goal of developing a town “heated entirely by hydrogen” by the end of this decade. This year will also see the government publish a Hydrogen Strategy that will “outline plans” to develop a hydrogen economy in the U.K.
The development in Gateshead is not the only project in the U.K. focused on using hydrogen within a domestic setting.
Last November, energy regulator Ofgem announced it would provide as much as £18 million in funding for a Scotland-based scheme centered around using green hydrogen to heat homes.
A further £6.9 million of investment for the project, known as H100 Fife, is to come from the Scottish government.
In a statement at the time, SGN, a firm responsible for the gas network in Scotland and the south of England, described the initiative as a “100% hydrogen demonstration network … that will bring carbon-free heating and cooking to around 300 homes from the end of 2022.”
Over in the U.S., last December saw the Southern California Gas Co. announce plans to build its “H2 Hydrogen Home.”
In a statement at the time, the firm described the project as a “first of its kind” for the U.S. and said it would consist of ”a home, solar panels, a home battery, an electrolyzer to convert solar energy into clean hydrogen, and a fuel cell to convert that hydrogen back to electricity.”
In addition, the home — which is due to be completed by the end of this year — will use a blend of hydrogen and natural gas to run its appliances.