The Douglas County Public Utility District in eastern Washington is making a $20 million investment in a new, clean energy business.

Where an old apple orchard existed, a small portion of the electricity from the district’s Wells Dam will be harnessed to make hydrogen fuel from well water.

“This can solve a lot of problems for us,” said Gary Ivory, the utility district’s general manager at a March groundbreaking for the project. “If it works, we can scale it up.”

The pilot project will put this small rural utility, about 150 miles east of Seattle, on the leading edge of a global push to produce hydrogen, a colorless, flammable gas that when combusted does not emit carbon or other greenhouse gases. Vast quantities are present in the water that covers most of the planet. But massive amounts of electricity would be required to make clean hydrogen a building block of the 21st century low-carbon economy that is envisioned by the international Paris Agreement, signed by more than 190 nations.

Read more: