January 2009


Conversation: Ken Reifsnider, Director of the Future Fuels Initiative
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SCRA's ATI to Install Fuel Cells at Ft. Jackson, SC
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Robotics team gets donation
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  January 21, 2008
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Conversation: Ken Reifsnider, Director of the Future Fuels Initiative

Why did you come to the University of South Carolina?

Ken Reifsnider:
This country faces not just an energy problem, but also a more fundamental issue of sustainability.  What attracted me to the University of South Carolina was the extraordinary opportunity that this region has to position itself as a major player in the search for viable alternative fuel solutions.  My expertise is in high temperature energy systems.  As the Director of the Future Fuels, we are looking to develop expertise in the areas of nanotechnology, energy, and also health sciences.  As Director of the Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Group, our goal will be to create systems that convert different forms of energy into something we can use to sustain our society. 

What role will hydrogen play in that mix?

Ken Reifsnider:
Hydrogen is essential in our day-to-day lives and is already an enormous industry.  Between 2005-2006, this country produced 15M tons of hydrogen for use in a wide variety of applications: for sulfur removal, for making fertilizer, and as it is now harder to find sweet petroleum, for converting heavy, sour crude oil to clean petroleum in our cars.  Hydrogen is nothing more than a convenient way to store and carry energy, and is simply another fuel like gasoline. 

Hydrogen is a very flexible fuel and especially with fuel cells applications, you can produce electricity with virtually no detrimental effects to the environment.  It is inconvenient because it can't provide the total answer to the energy requirements of our modern society.  If we were to replace gasoline with hydrogen in our cars we would need to produce something like 17 times the amount of hydrogen that we are currently making.  We are not likely to see that level of production in our lifetimes, and it may not be possible at all.  So the energy systems that we come up with may or may not involve hydrogen.  

Talk about the potential of fuel cells.

Ken Reifsnider:
The idea of converting materials, or fuels to electricity in fuel cells is a relatively old technology that dates back to as early as 1844.  Some of these fuel cells operate at low-temperatures and require pure hydrogen.  Others require higher temperatures and can operate on hydrogen that can be produced by using biomass fuels or even steam.

The fuel cell is a nice device, we just need to develop more practical applications to meet our everyday energy needs.  We think we can develop a commuter car that won't plug in to anything or use any fuel, so that would be an example of a very attractive opportunity.

It is in the area of energy systems that this region can really gain a long-term competitive advantage, not necessarily just fuel cells.  Energy needs are specific to local areas; therefore, the solutions have to be discovered at the regional level.  Some states may be outspending us, but Columbia, South Carolina has an unparalleled level of collaboration across the spectrum of public and private sector groups and an incredibly determined and focused local leadership group.

How do we get there?

Ken Reifsnider:
It's about partnerships and attracting talent.  Recently, the university collaborated with eight other universities on a project. The Savannah River site has recently been recognized as the energy storage experts for entire United States; it is a huge asset to this state.  We are building state of the art laboratories in new buildings to attract "best in the world" talent to new faculty positions.  We also have world class talent on all of our advisory committees.

My job is to bring all of the assets and resources together to develop a wide variety of energy systems that can help us locally. We have a power plant at the University of South Carolina that is producing a couple megawatts of power just from wood chips.  Coal will be part of the equation, as will nuclear, biomass (which we have in abundance in this state), hydrogen, and to some degree wind, and solar. 

Finally, with governments stretched for cash, the United States will not be able to solve these issues without a huge innovative push from industry. 

Who knows exactly where all of this will lead, but these are very exciting times for this region.  Below is a possible timeframe of how this might play out over the next 20 years.

• 5 years.   Create a framework for defining the current problems, identifying all of our assets and resources and defining the goals.
• 10 years.  Create systems to solve the problems through a combination of solutions. 
• 15 years.  Create the infrastructure to make it all happen.

January 16, 2008
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SCRA's ATI to Install Fuel Cells at Ft. Jackson, SC

SCRA Affiliate Advanced Technology Institute Announces Agreement
to Install Fuel Cells for Backup Power of Mission-Critical Applications
at Fort Jackson, SC

Charleston, SC – January 16, 2009 -- The Army Corps of Engineers has entered into a cooperative agreement with the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) to deploy 10 fuel cell backup power units in three mission-critical applications at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. The U.S. Department of Energy and South Carolina Research Authority, the parent organization of ATI, are also partners in the project. The total funding to support the deployment, shared among the partners, is approximately $500,000. LOGANEnergy of Roswell, Georgia, will procure and install the fuel cell equipment.

The project, launched officially on December 16, will assess the performance, durability and life cycle costs of commercially-available fuel cell technology operating in a backup power application. The fuel cells will provide critical backup power to the Fort Jackson
Telecommunications Center, Energy Monitoring and Control Facility, and Emergency Services Center. After an 18-month performance monitoring period, the Fort will continue to use the fuel cell systems to provide improved reliability, reduced emissions compared to conventional technologies, and lower lifecycle costs in backing up these mission-essential power requirements. The equipment installations also may provide mutually beneficial workforce development partnership opportunities between Fort Jackson and nearby Midlands Technical College, which has developed and begun offering a fuel cell technician program of study.

“We are delighted to partner with the Departments of Energy and Defense, the City of Columbia and the USC Columbia Fuel Cell Collaborative to bring about this important fuel cell project at Fort Jackson,” said Bill Mahoney, SCRA CEO. “This project illustrates how SCRA’s proven business models can benefit the commercialization process of this rapidly growing technology in South Carolina.”

The project team is working to complete the installations and have the equipment operational in time to showcase this project during the 20th annual National Hydrogen Association Conference, which will be held in Columbia, South Carolina, beginning on March 30, 2009.

# # #

About the Department of Energy Hydrogen Program
The DOE Hydrogen Program supports the research, development, and demonstration of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies for transportation and electricity generation. The Program also seeks to advance the use of hydrogen fuel cells in key early markets including emergency backup power, specialty vehicles such as material handling equipment, and primary power for critical loads. For more information, please see

About the ERDC-CERL
The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) is the premier research and development facility for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It consists of seven laboratories --including the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) -- at four geographical sites, with over 2,000 employees, $1.2 billion in facilities, and an annual research program exceeding $700 million. ERDC conducts research in both military and civil works mission areas for the Department of Defense and the nation.

About Fort Jackson
Fort Jackson is the largest and most active Initial Entry Training Center in the U.S. Army, training 50 percent of all Soldiers and 70 percent of the women entering the Army each year. The post's primary mission is providing the Army with trained, disciplined, motivated and physically fit warriors who espouse the Army's core values and are focused on teamwork. Accomplishing that mission means training in excess of 50,000 basic training and advanced individual training Soldiers every year.

About SCRA
SCRA is a global leader in applied research and commercialization services with offices in Anderson, Charleston and Columbia. SCRA collaborates to advance technology. SCRA provides technology-based solutions with assured outcomes on behalf of industry, government, and research universities like Clemson University, the University of South Carolina and the Medical University of South Carolina. http://www.scra.org

About the Advanced Technology Institute
The Advanced Technology Institute builds international consortia to develop and implement innovative solutions for manufacturing, aerospace, automotive, maritime, metals, energy and healthcare industries. ATI-led collaborations attract world-class talent from premier companies, universities and government agencies. A private, non-profit research corporation with principal operations in Charleston, SC, ATI is an affiliate of SCRA. For more information, please visit www.aticorp.org.

About Logan Energy
LOGANEnergy is a recognized world leader providing fuel cell solutions that target customer desires for clean energy services. Their professional staff has over 90 years experience with fuel cell product development and deployment specializing in planning, applications engineering and design, site construction, installation, commissioning, start-up and after market services. LOGAN’s team has installed more than 125 commercial and small-scale fuel cell projects totaling over 10 megawatts of power. LOGAN’s role in this project is to design, install, commission and provide technical support services for the ten fuel cell units to be deployed at Ft. Jackson, SC.

January 8, 2008
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Robotics team gets donation

ITT Technical Institute gives Mauldin group $4,000

For the second year in a row, the Mauldin High School Robotics Team has received a $4,000 donation from ITT Technical Institute.

The institute encourages a partnership between its students and the team members, said Jennifer Snow Walker, community relations specialist.

"The team's always looking for people within the community (to partner with)," Walker said. "We want to help out any way we can."

Among other things, the donation will cover entry fees for South Carolina's regional competition, held at Clemson University each year, she said.

The Mauldin High Robotics Team 1319 competes every year in the FIRST Robotics Competition, which includes a six-week-long build period during which students and mentors build a robot and then compete against other teams.

The Mauldin team has previously placed third in the world and won both South Carolina and Georgia regional competitions. The 2009 competition kicked off Jan. 3 with a live videoconference introducing the challenge.

Since September, the team has been among 50 nationwide taking part in the Fuel Cell "Green Machine" Competition, a contest to retrofit a robotic vehicle engine with a hydrogen fuel cell. The final competition will be held in May.

ITT Tech also has a scholarship program that awards one scholarship each year at each ITT location to a FIRST Robotics team member.

The scholarship awards $9,000 a year toward an associate's degree, Walker said, and the applications deadline is in April.

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