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Feds commit to $1.6B in financing for Plug Power to build 'hydrogen hubs' across the US

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D-NY) speaking at a news conference Monday, 6/19/23, at Plug Power in Henrietta. Plug Power's CEO Andy Marsh spoke as well about Schumer's push, urging the U.S. Dept. of Energy to select a New York state-led Northeast regional hydrogen hub to develop 'green hydrogen.'
Randy Gorbman
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D-NY) speaking during a June 2023 news conference at Plug Power in Henrietta. Plug Power's CEO Andy Marsh, shown sitting behind Schumer, spoke as well about Schumer's push to get the U.S. Department of Energy to select a New York state-led Northeast regional hydrogen hub to develop 'green hydrogen.'

Plug Power's stock price shot up Tuesday on the news that the federal Department of Energy had committed to provide the hydrogen fuel cell system manufacturer with a $1.6 billion loan guarantee.

On Tuesday afternoon, the company's stock was trading almost 25% higher than when the market closed Monday, when shares were $2.90. At 2:30 p.m., the stock was trading at $3.58 a share after peaking earlier in the day at $4.87. Plug Power has two sites in the Rochester area — a manufacturing facility in Henrietta and a hydrogen production facility in Genesee County that's still under construction.

Plug Power plans to use the financing to build six hydrogen production facilities across the country. Andy Marsh, the company's CEO, said the "hydrogen hubs" are intended to make sure that hydrogen is available everywhere in the United States.

"Plug's success is important to the industry, but it also makes hydrogen available to everyone," Marsh said. "Everybody knows how to go get gasoline, we need to be able to think about hydrogen the same way where it's not this specialty gas, but something that is common. "

The loan guarantee is conditional. In a post on its website, the Department of Energy said the company "must satisfy certain technical, legal, environmental, and financial conditions" before the department will finalize the agreement and fund the guarantee.

Marsh declined to identify likely locations for the facilities.

But in its news release, Plug Power emphasized that all the facilities will use electrolyzer stacks made at its Henrietta facility. Those systems use electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, which is environmentally preferable to other systems which convert methane to hydrogen.

"Certainly, we're going to be adding more efficiency, but ... you can see the Rochester facility growing with the electrolyzer stacks," Marsh said. "But we also make the fuel cell stacks there which — these electrolyzers generate hydrogen, which has to be used by something. And that something's usually our fuel cells."

Plug Power completed its first hydrogen production facility — and what it said was the first commercial-scale "green" hydrogen plant in the country — earlier this year in Woodbine, Georgia. That plant will serve as the model for the new hydrogen production facilities, Marsh said.

In its post, the DOE said that the loan guarantee "will help unlock the full potential of this versatile fuel and support the growth of strong, American-led industry.

In a statement, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer lauded Tuesday's announcement.

“This $1.6 billion federal investment will supercharge Plug’s world-class workforce across Upstate New York as Plug builds new facilities across the nation, all powered by the equipment made in New York," he said in the statement. "Green hydrogen has the potential to help us decarbonize some of the trickiest parts of our economy — from the industrial sector to marine shipping — and with the major federal investments through the Inflation Reduction Act I championed, Upstate NY is poised to lead the way in powering America’s clean energy future."

Jeremy Moule is a deputy editor with WXXI News. He also covers Monroe County.