What happened

Shares of hydrogen fuel cell specialist Plug Power (PLUG 10.20%) inched up yesterday on news that -- on closer analysis -- wasn't really "new" at all. Today, in contrast, Plug Power is enjoying even bigger gains as its shares shoot up 5.8% through 11 a.m. EDT.

Curiously, this time the news that's lifting the stock isn't Plug's news.

H2 storage tanks in a forest surrounded by windmills and solar panels.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

With a $3.9 billion market capitalization, Ballard Power Systems (BLDP 2.55%) is arguably Plug's biggest rival in the fuel cell space. But in a sense, hydrogen is a sea that lifts all boats when its popularity rises -- and as we learned today, Ballard is helping to float those boats.

This morning, Ballard announced that its partner, Hydrogene de France, has begun building a CEOG Renewstable Power Plant (CEOG) in French Guiana (that's the little territory sandwiched between Brazil and Suriname on South America's northeast coast). As Ballard explains, "CEOG is the world's first multi-megawatt, baseload hydrogen power plant." And running off of stored hydrogen gas to generate electricity, it will serve as "the largest green hydrogen storage of intermittent renewable electricity sources."  

Now what

The $200 million CEOG project will serve, says Ballard, as the first of "a new generation of megawatt power fuel cell systems dedicated to stationary applications."

It will incorporate Ballard technology, which you might think is bad news for Plug. On the other hand, though, if "multi-megawatt, baseload hydrogen power plants" like CEOG turn out to be a popular solution to shoring up electric grids, then you can anticipate this will increase long-term demand for hydrogen gas to power them. And that could be good news for Plug Power, as it's building multiple plants to produce clean hydrogen gas for such purposes.

Long story short, by helping to build CEOG, Ballard Power is increasing the popularity of and the demand for hydrogen gas, and thus helping to build the hydrogen economy that Plug intends to lead. That's good news for Ballard -- and for Plug Power, too.