Electric Hydrogen, a start-up backed by billionaire investor Bill Gates, has secured agreement from a major US utility to buy 1GW of its massive electrolysis systems — the second gigawatt-scale deal signed by the company in under six months.

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The framework reservation agreement allows US utility and prospective green hydrogen developer AES to order up to 1GW of Electric Hydrogen’s 100MW electrolysers in the future, equivalent to ten units.

In practice, this means that AES — which has not taken final investment decision on any of its green H2 projects — has effectively paid to reserve capacity on the production lines at Electric Hydrogen’s electrolyser gigafactory in Devens, Massachusetts, without making a firm order.

AES is jointly developing a $4bn green hydrogen project with Air Products in northern Texas utilising 1.4GW of wind and solar and an estimated 800MW of electrolyser capacity.

It is also participating in two US hydrogen hubs, granted a total of $2.4bn between them as part of the Biden administration’s $7bn H2Hubs programme, the Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES) in California, and the HyVelocity Hub on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

It is also working on green ammonia projects in Chile and Brazil.

But the developer wants to use the capacity reservation agreement to expand its green hydrogen project portfolio.

“Electric Hydrogen’s innovative technology and large-scale product enables AES to offer cost-effective decarbonisation solutions for our customers in the most difficult to decarbonize sectors,” said Ashley Smith, chief innovation officer at AES.

“AES is taking steps to secure our supply chain proactively as we strategically grow our green hydrogen business.”

Electric Hydrogen is producing its own 100MW turnkey hydrogen electrolysers, which when deployed would be by far the largest single electrolysers in the world.

Most electrolysis systems are made up of smaller-sized stacks that are configured together into a larger plant, but Electric Hydrogen claims that by building its systems bigger from the start it can take advantage of economies of scale and bring costs down fast.

The company, which announced the decision to proceed with the Devens gigafactory in May 2023, had been due to begin producing first electrolyser stacks at the site in the first quarter of this year, however this is now scheduled for April, Electric Hydrogen told Hydrogen Insight.

The deal with AES comes after Australia’s Fortescue, chaired by billionaire Andrew Forrest, signed a similar framework procurement agreement for 1GW of electrolysers from Electric Hydrogen in October last year.

And US gas specialist New Fortress Energy has agreed to procure one of the company’s 100MW units for its plant in Texas, for which Electric Hydrogen is currently carrying out pre-fabrication work.

But while global electrolyser manufacturing capacity looks set to be under-utilitised over the next few years, some renewable hydrogen developers are nevertheless paying to secure electrolyser capacity, starting with First Ammonia, which reserved 5GW of capacity from Topsoe last year before it had even settled on a site for its main green hydrogen project.