January 2007

01.31.2007
Senate panel OKs incentives for development of fuel cells
(full article)

01.25.2007
Inglis, Graham renew push for hydrogen prize
(full article)

01.22.2007
Inglis pushes for bi-partisan support on H-Prize energy legislation
(full article)

01.21.2007
Fuel cell challenge targets forklifts
(full article)

01.09.2007
Hydrogenics and LiftOne team up in South Carolina pilot deployments of fuel cells in forklifts
(full press release)

01.07.2007
Net metering could increase use of renewable energy in South Carolina
(full article)


January 31, 2007
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Senate panel OKs incentives for development of fuel cells

COLUMBIA - Efforts to establish South Carolina as a major player in the hydrogen fuel cell technology industry moved forward Tuesday when the state Senate Finance Committee approved a bill that would give grants and incentives to potential investors.

The House Ways and Means Committee is considering a similar bill, backed by Speaker Bobby Harrell, higher education and industry leaders, including the Savannah River National Laboratory.

"We've really got to push a knowledge-based economy, using intellectual capital," said Sen. John Matthews, D-Bowman.

Supporters call hydrogen a "fuel of the future" because it is environmentally friendly and widely available. Hydrogen and fuel cells can be used to generate electricity and power vehicles, decreasing the need for gasoline and dependence on foreign oil.

South Carolina already has taken a lead role in the hydrogen-power industry, including the establishment of the Center for Hydrogen Research in South Carolina.

But there are hurdles to be overcome, notably the cost-efficiency of technology and the lack of hydrogen "fueling" stations that would be needed for owners of hydrogen cars to take long, cross-country trips.

Lawmakers hope the House and Senate bills begin to address those issues by encouraging companies and individuals to invest in hydrogen research, technology and infrastructure.

The bills would create the South Carolina Hydrogen Infrastructure Development Fund within the state treasurer's office.

The fund would pay for $15 million in grants to the nonprofit South Carolina Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Alliance and others, no later than mid-2012, to support the development of hydrogen fuel cell technology

Senators amended the bill, though, to give the General Assembly leeway to withhold funding, addressing concerns that the bill committed the state to funding an annual appropriation, at least for the next three years.

Taxpayers who contribute to the fund also would get a tax credit equal to 25 percent of their fund donation.

Supporters say hydrogen technology has the potential to create high-paying jobs for South Carolina and be a clean alternative to electrical power that would help limit the United States' reliance on foreign sources of oil

Senators did question who would oversee the disbursement of grants and the limited role of the Center for Hydrogen Research in Aiken County.

The South Carolina Research Authority would disperse the grants, based on guidelines established by a number of higher education institutions, the Savannah River National Laboratory and the Center for Hydrogen Research.

The research authority has several members, but the only voting members are from the state's research institutions, the chairman of the board of trustees, two legislative designees and one designee from the governor.

"It looks like another pot of money for the universities," said Sen. Greg Ryberg, R-Aiken.

The committee approved the legislation without dissent. It now heads to the full Senate. The House version is still in committee.

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January 25, 2007
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Inglis, Graham renew push for hydrogen prize

WASHINGTON -- Two South Carolina lawmakers hope to convince Congress that taxpayer-funded prizes are a way to spur scientific competition to make hydrogen a feasible alternative to oil.

Rep. Bob Inglis, R-Travelers Rest, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., dusted off their H-Prize Act legislation and re-introduced it this week.

The legislation died when the 109th Congress ended. It had passed the House 416-6 but stalled in the Senate.

Inglis said last year's bill hit a roadblock when the Republican chairman of a key committee said he thought it was redundant because the Energy Department has the authority to create such a competitive program if it chooses.

The bill might get a better reception this year because the committee has a new chairman after Democrats took control of the Senate, Inglis said.

The legislation's goal is to stimulate competition to solve problems with production costs, storage and distribution that currently make hydrogen use as a fuel impractical.

South Carolina researchers are tackling some of those issues at the University of South Carolina, Clemson University and the Savannah River Site.

The bill would award:

  • A total of $20 million for developments in production, storage, distribution and use of hydrogen. Four $1 million prizes every two years.
  • A total of $20 million for working hydrogen-fueled vehicle prototypes. One prize of $4 million every two years.
  • A total of $10 million for a grand prize over the next 10 years plus a mix of federal and private money to match investment dollars for a breakthrough discovery that transforms hydrogen from a fuel of limited use to one of wide use.

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January 22, 2007
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Inglis pushes for bi-partisan support on H-Prize energy legislation

U.S. Rep. Inglis (R-SC) and U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) will re-file their H-Prize hydrogen incentive bill tomorrow after it passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support, 416-6, during the 109th Congress. It stalled last year in the Senate, therefore requiring it to be re-filed and passed in the new Congress.

The H-Prize Act of 2007 would provide incentives for breakthroughs in moving to a hydrogen economy. The grand prize is a total of $10 million in federal funds with up to $40 million to be raised in matching private capital for commercialization.

“Moving to a hydrogen economy is the ultimate triple play with perfect alignment between the local and national interest,” Inglis said. “We can create jobs, clean up the air and make America more secure by breaking dependence on Middle Eastern oil.”

The H-Prize Act is the kind of energy legislation the country needs because of its broad support, and its potential to attract the best and brightest entrepreneurial minds to hydrogen research, Inglis said.

“The goal of the prize is to develop the most non-governmental way to break through to a hydrogen economy,” Inglis said. “We want to harness the power of the American 'can do' spirit and innate human competitive drive.

“Democrats are for alternative energy; Republicans are for alternative energy. The Congress is ready; the President is ready. So let's do it.”

President Bush is expected to discuss alternative energy in tomorrow night’s annual State of the Union address.

The H-Prize, inspired by the successful Ansari X Prize – which spurred the first privately funded suborbital human spaceflight last year – would help overcome technical challenges related to hydrogen by offering prizes in three categories:

  • Technological Advancements – Four prizes of up to $1 million awarded biennially in the categories of hydrogen Production, Storage, Distribution and Utilization;
  • Prototypes – One prize of up to $4 million awarded biennially that forces working hydrogen vehicle prototypes to meet ambitious performance goals; and
  • Transformational Technologies – One grand prize consisting of a $10 million cash award, funded in whole or in part by federal contribution. The goal of $40 million in additional matching funds could be awarded for development of wells-to-wheels breakthrough technologies.

The bill would authorize appropriations during fiscal years 2008 through 2017 totaling:

  • $20 million for the Technical Advancement prizes;
  • $20 million for the Prototypes prizes (awards in these two categories alternate each year);
  • $10 million for a single Transformational Technologies grand prize; and
  • $2 million annually for administrative and advertising costs.

Inglis and Lipinski will give a joint keynote address to the “Engines of the Future” seminar tomorrow at the Washington Auto Show. The speech will begin at 2:05 p.m. with media availability immediately afterwards.

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January 21, 2007
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Fuel cell challenge targets forklifts

Project developed to boost Columbia as model for hydrogen technology

Two fuel cell-powered industrial forklifts should be in use in several Columbia-area companies by late spring.

Hydrogenics, an Ontario, Canada-based company that makes hydrogen and fuel cell systems, and LiftOne, a division of Charlotte-based Carolina Tractor, have teamed up for the demonstration project.

The forklift project is part of the Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge, which last week issued a request for proposals to create a hydrogen filling station in Columbia.

The station is needed to support a yearlong fuel cell bus demonstration project on and around USC campus. The project should start in fall 2008 and will fuel at least two dozen hydrogen vehicles expected in Columbia for the National Hydrogen Association annual convention in spring 2009.

The fuel cell challenge — a collaborative project of USC, the city of Columbia, EngenuitySC and the S.C. Research Authority — was issued in March last year as a way to boost Columbia’s efforts to become a center of hydrogen technology and the hydrogen economy.

Awards are funded through the S.C. Research Authority.

The forklift project is the seventh project financed by the Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge.

The $1 million-plus project is easily the biggest award for the challenge, said Neil McLean, EngenuitySC executive director. The money includes what the research authority will put into the project along with the contributions of the private enterprises involved, said Russ Keller, project manager for the authority.

lHyPX Fuel Cell Power Packs .LiftOne has agreed to market and service Hydrogenics’ HyPX Fuel Cell Power Pack, a hydrogen fuel cell for lift trucks, to dealers and distributors in, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

During the demonstration project, the forklifts will spend two to three weeks in the plants of a least five LiftOne customers around the Columbia area, said Bill Ryan, general manager of LiftOne. “ We have as many as eight customers who have expressed interest.”

They include Fortune 500 companies that are very sensitive about any kind of press, Ryan said.

The plants cover a range of products from tires, to food products, beverages, fiber components and automotive a materials, Hydrogenics said.

The deployments are expected to begin in late spring and be complete by November.

Forklifts are expected to be early adopters of fuel cell technology, McLean said. “It just makes sense.”

About 127,000 new electric forklifts go into service each year and they have about a six-year life span, Ryan said.

The fuel cell-powered fork lifts offer some distinct advantages over other electric trucks, Ryan said.

One of the greatest advantages comes from not having to recharge, store and change out the bulky batteries that are used to power electric forklifts.

The batteries can weigh between 3,500 and 4,000 pounds each, take up an enormous amount of storage space and can take as much as an hour to change out, Ryan said. Any plant that is running 24/7 has to have multiple batteries.

A battery-operated truck can run only about six hours, as well, he said.

A fuel cell forklift can operate between 12-14 hours before having to refuel, which takes just minutes at a small fueling station, Ryan said.

The Columbia project will give potential customers the chance to evaluate the benefits of fuel cell-powered forklifts in their own facilities, said Daryl Wilson.

HYDROGEN REFUELING STATION

Having a “functioning hydrogen fueling infrastructure in place in Columbia no later than July 1, 2008,” is the fuel cell challenge’s top priority.

The challenge is requesting letters of interest by Feb. 1 and final proposals by Feb. 26.

The fueling station is expected to be at an existing or planned commercial gas station or on city-owned, publicly accessible property. It also is expected to be able to serve “both commercial bus and private vehicle customers.

The station also might become a hydrogen production “hub” that services other local customers (material handling equipment fleets, utility vehicles, etc.), according to the proposal request.

The challenge would love to have a station that would make all fuels available, McLean said. “ The public needs to see that it is as safe as gasoline.”

The best of all possible worlds would be to have a station that dispenses hydrogen, gasoline and diesel and at least one of the other alternative fuels, such as E85 Ethanol or biodiesel, Keller said.

The request puts a premium on proposals that include partnerships with Columbia-based public and private entities, such as USC or local businesses.

The challenge expects to make an award by March 9 and wants work on the project to begin within 30 days.

To read more about the request for proposals, go to fuelcellchallenge.com.

OTHER AWARDS

The Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge has approved 10 awards to date.

Awards for six projects totaling more than $150,000 were announced in October at EngenuitySC’s annual meeting. One of those projects, a Citizens' School of Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Technology, is preparing to launch in February.

Since October, four additional awards, including the forklift project, have been made.

Three of the projects have not been made public because details are still being worked out, McLean said.

Two are K-12 education projects that involve multiple partners, McLean said. The other project is Department of Defense-related.

CITIZENS’ FUEL CELL SCHOOL

The Citizens’ School of Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Technology, one of the projects funded through the Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge, will kick off Feb. 5.

• The school is a project of USC and was one of the first six awards made by the fuel cell challenge, funded through the S.C. Research Authority.

• Participants will meet at 6:30 p.m. Mondays, Feb. 5 through March 19, at USC’s Swearingen Engineering Center, Main and Catawba streets.

• The cost of the seven-week program is $30.

• USC faculty will introduce fuel cell and hydrogen technology to non-experts in sessions designed for adults as a consumer-friendly outreach.

• A limited number of seats are available. To enroll or for more information, call (803) 777-2221 or e-mail toumey@sc.edu.

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January 9, 2007
(view original press release)

Hydrogenics and LiftOne team up in South Carolina pilot deployments of fuel cells in forklifts

$12 Billion Materials Handling Sector Presents Emerging Opportunity

MISSISSAUGA, ONTARIO and COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Hydrogenics Corporation, a leading designer and manufacturer of hydrogen and fuel cell systems, and LiftOne, a division of Carolina Tractor, have received an award to assist in the deployment of hydrogen fuel cells in forklifts at several manufacturing facilities in South Carolina. The project is an initiative of The Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge, in support of Columbia's efforts to become a centre of expertise in the development of fuel cell hybrid technology for use in the manufacturing and distribution sectors. LiftOne has engaged and has received acceptance by several prominent manufacturers and distributors in the greater Columbia market areas to demonstrate the advantages of Hydrogenics HyPX Fuel Cell Power Packs in two Class 1 lift trucks furnished by LiftOne. These end-users and their third party logistics providers cover a wide range of products from tires, to food products, from beverages to fiber components and automotive componentry. A mobile hydrogen refueler will be supplied for refueling.

The deployments are expected to begin in late spring 2007 and to be completed by November 2007. In addition to this new initiative, Hydrogenics will be commencing a two year deployment of 19 forklift trucks this summer at General Motor's of Canada in Oshawa, Ontario.

"This project, enabled by The Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge, enables key target customers the opportunity to evaluate the benefits of HyPX fuel cell solutions for their lift trucks in their own facilities," said Daryl Wilson, Hydrogenics President and Chief Executive Officer. "It is important that end-users see first-hand the productivity and performance improvements these power packs provide, and to appreciate the operational benefits they enable, such as eliminating the need for battery rooms that can occupy valuable space within a facility. We have already seen the success of initial pilot deployments of our HyPX Fuel Cell Power Pack product in real-time operations. Our next step is to expand the deployment of this product to new potential customers. As our recently announced HyPX distributor, LiftOne is a key player in this project with us and we look forward to this immediate opportunity to put our newly penned distributorship agreement to work."

"Besides being a clean technology, hydrogen fuel cells offer significant productivity benefits over other forklift power options," said Bill Ryan, Vice President and General Manager of LiftOne. "Through the Greater Columbia Fuel Cell challenge we will now be able to demonstrate these benefits to our customers in a real life situation."

"This partnership is yet another asset to Columbia's continued growth as a leader in the future of fuel cell technology," said City of Columbia Mayor, Bob Coble. "This public-private partnership between the Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge, Hydrogenics and Lift-One brings endless possibilities to our city through the potential growth in knowledge based jobs and opportunities within the Fuel Cell District and beyond."

The size of the $12-billion materials handling sector, where 749,000 forklift trucks were sold in 2005, represents an excellent near-term market opportunity for Hydrogenics.

About Hydrogenics

Hydrogenics Corporation  is a globally recognized developer and provider of hydrogen generation and fuel cell products and services, serving the growing industrial and clean energy markets of today and tomorrow. Based in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, Hydrogenics has operations in North America, Europe and Asia.

About LiftOne

LiftOne, A Division of Carolina Tractor is a full-service material handling dealership, providing equipment solutions to move and store customers' product. LiftOne offers new and used equipment, as well as a large fleet of equipment ready-to-rent. With a service staff of over 130 highly trained technicians, LiftOne services most brands of material handling equipment at customer locations. LiftOne's product brand lineup includes: Cat Lift Trucks, Linde Lift Trucks, Ottawa/Kalmar, Komatsu, LiftKing, and others.

About The Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge

USC, the City of Columbia, the South Carolina Research Authority and Engenuity SC have organized the Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge to collaborate with private sector leaders from all areas of the fuel cell market for the unprecedented deployment of fuel cell and alternative energy technology into multiple city, university and commercial applications throughout the region.

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January 7, 2007
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Net metering could increase use of renewable energy in South Carolina

A practice called net metering could encourage South Carolinians to use solar and other alternative energies that decrease foreign oil dependence and pollution, proponents say.

"It would be an opportunity to unleash the private sector more," said Carleton Owen, an Upstate Forever board member.

But utility companies worry about safety, reliability and cost.

Net metering allows people who generate their own energy to sell excess electricity to utilities. South Carolina is one of 10 states where it's not allowed.

"Instead of storing any surplus, you feed it back to your meter and the meter spins backward to offset your usage. That way you use the grid as storage, buying power off the grid when you're not producing," said Michael Wood, head of operations for Sunstor, in Greer, which sells and installs solar systems.

The federal 2005 Energy Policy Act requires state regulators to consider it, and the state Public Service Commission is taking public comment through Feb. 1. A hearing date will be set this year, said Charles Terreni, commission director.

"Net metering makes a lot of sense. It's important to our national security to generate as much power as we can internally," said U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis.

"Solar, wind, bio-fuels and hydrogen all should be pursued. We are dependent on some of the world's most unstable regions for our way of life. Whatever it takes, we need to break out of this addiction to oil."

Duke Energy's main interest is that systems be installed in a safe manner and don't impact reliability, said Tim Petit, a Duke spokesman.

Duke, Progress Energy Carolinas Inc., South Carolina Electric and Gas Co., and two individuals have filed with the Public Service Commission as interveners, according to commission records. That allows them to provide testimony and take part in proceedings.

Rate has been an issue in North Carolina, a net metering state, where some people generating their own electricity want their meters to just spin backward, "paying them the full rate," Petit said. "We don't believe that's appropriate."

Duke pays less than it charges them because the cost of electricity includes transmission, distribution, billing, customer service and other aspects of the business as well as power generation, Petit said.

Stephen Morrison of Mountain Rest has a solar-powered home and commercial woodworking shop and is one of few private South Carolina citizens allowed to sell excess electricity back to his electric provider. Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative allows him to sell back on an experimental basis as a co-generating system rather than net metering, he said.

Morrison's $35,000 system consists of three solar panels on the ground, five roof-mounted panels and other equipment, including a sophisticated meter that allows billing at one rate for electricity he buys and credit at a lower rate for what he sells, like what Duke does in North Carolina.

Power generated by home and small business owners could help utilities meet the demand, Morrison said. His system produces peak power during summer days when utilities experience peak usage, so the power generated benefits them, he said.

South Carolina's electric cooperatives don't fall under the commission's review, but they are doing their own study as required by the federal policy, said Terry Ballenger, a Blue Ridge cooperative spokesman.

Metering equipment, revamping of billing systems and other changes to accommodate net metering would add to the cost of providing service, Ballenger said.

"The co-op's position is we aren't going to ask existing members who don't use net metering to subsidize those who do," Ballenger said. "If we have to jump through hoops to generate bills for those folks, they will have to bear the greater costs."

Cost "has not been prohibitive" in states that have used net metering for a few years, said Brad Collins, executive director of the American Solar Energy Society.

Simple solutions include digital meters that automatically calculate the transactions and can be purchased for about $200, Collins said.

Various states have differing ways of handling net metering, said Sonny DuBose, renewable energy project coordinator with the South Carolina Energy Office.

"I don't see a cost for anybody when it's done right. Unlike crude oil resources, these renewable, alternative energy sources have a long, long life," DuBose said.

DuBose believes net metering would further encourage growing interest in renewable energy sources, particularly solar, in South Carolina.

Nearly 100 homeowners using solar, including 40 in Greenville County and others across Pickens, Anderson and Oconee, are included on a limited list compiled by the South Carolina Energy Office. Commercial solar users include Furman and Clemson universities and Goodwill Industries in Greenville.

The solar has had its "ups and downs," related to oil prices and Middle East volatility, Wood said.

Currently there is renewed interest in new systems, particularly since a 30 percent federal tax credit and a 25 percent state tax credit became available, Wood said.

Steve Johnson, of Clemson, has a solar hot water heater and solar powered attic fans he bought for about $5,000, and he will get more than half of that back on his taxes.

He plans to install a full system in the next couple years and wants the option of net metering so he won't have to buy batteries that cost more money and take up space.

"In the middle of the afternoon, I'll produce more electricity than I need, but at night I'll need power," Johnson said.

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