The energy future of Costa Rica could go through green hydrogen. Franklin Chang, a former NASA astronaut, is the promoter of Ad Astra Rocket, a hydrogen production company with which he wants to revolutionize his country in a decade.
In addition to the ecological interest, this clean source would alleviate Costa Rica’s energy bill, especially hydrocarbons, which the country imports in its entirety, at a cost of US$ 2,000 million per year.
“The vast majority of that energy is still fossil fuels and is used more than anything in transportation, transportation is the bulk of the country’s energy consumer, and that is where we have been aiming for more than a decade”, statesChang.
Franklin Chang learned about the benefits of green hydrogen on one of his 7 trips into space as a NASA astronaut. A nuclear engineer by training, he considers it viable to power buses, trucks, ships and even planes with his clean fuel in the short term. It could also be used in the production of fertilizers, steel, glass and cement, among other industries, which cannot be decarbonized in any other way.
How is green hydrogen produced?
But how is that energy produced? To begin with, water must be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen by electrolysis, using electricity from renewable sources, as explained by Juan Ignacio del Valle, head of operations at Ad Astra Rocket.
“What we do at Ad Astra Rocket is green hydrogen, which is produced from the combination of 2 ingredients: the renewable electricity we get from the Costa Rican power grid and from our solar panels and wind turbine, and the other ingredient is water, which in this case is water that comes from a well in the facilities where we are”, explains del Valle.
Financial support from NASA and car companies like Toyota
The company’s facilities have 40 square meters of solar panels, as well as a wind turbine and an electrolyzer to break down water. At the moment, production is scarce and the price is still high, but they have already obtained financial support from NASA and car companies such as Toyota, which has provided the first 4 light vehicles powered by green hydrogen in Latin America.
They also have a bus donated by the city of Connecticut, in the United States. These vehicles take between 5 and 15 minutes to charge at a hydrogen dispenser, much like the one at a conventional gas station.