A collaboration between the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, the Center for Economic and Community Engagement, private industry, and several community partners is helping Hampton Roads meet its growing energy needs while also serving as a key initiative in the drive to expand energy sources across Virginia.
The Corporate Research Center, a subsidiary of the Virginia Tech Foundation, oversees Tech Center Research Park in Newport News where $1.6 million in GO Virginia funds will be used to develop a 5,000- to 10,000-square-foot demonstration lab for the production of green hydrogen. Another $5 million in investments will come from ITA International, Genplant, W.M. Jordan Co., and the city of Newport News.
Green hydrogen is produced by splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable energy sources — in this case, capitalizing on Dominion Energy’s $9.8 billion investment in its Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project. The 2022 Virginia Energy Plan specifically calls on the commonwealth to embrace and invest in hydrogen. The fuel is a leading option to store renewable energy so it can be used to power heavy industry, long-haul freight, aviation, and homes. As part of the demonstration lab, a small-scale power system will provide electricity to Tech Center and nearby Jefferson Lab.
“A clean energy initiative that integrates the expertise within Virginia’s academic, public, and private sectors is essential to asserting leadership and contribution in global energy,” said Elizabeth A. McClanahan, CEO of the Virginia Tech Foundation. “As a subsidiary of the foundation, and as a force in entrepreneurship, the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center is well-positioned to coalesce the delivery of research, industrial production, and worker education.”
The initiative establishes industry-driven training, education, and community awareness programs about the best applications of hydrogen. It is expected to create 230 high-paying jobs, build strategic partnerships with industry, and attract more investment from the private sector.
Brett Malone, President and CEO of the Corporate Research Center, said the regional teamwork around the effort sets the stage for much larger projects in the near future.
“I’m thankful for GO Virginia’s support and proud to be part of a coalition that has come together so quickly to support economic growth with advancements in energy solutions — creating locally produced clean hydrogen gas to serve the growing energy capacity and sustainability demand from critical industry sectors,” he said.
The initiative leans on Virginia Tech’s presence in the region, including the Center for Economic and Community Engagement (CECE) and the Newport News Center — a Commonwealth Campus Center located at Tech Center that connects university resources and expertise to Hampton Roads. The two centers, part of Outreach and International Affairs, will connect the green hydrogen initiative to Virginia Tech faculty for the development of workforce training curriculum as well as opportunities for applied research. CECE will lead engagement efforts with community, workforce, and industry stakeholders.