March 2007

03.27.2007
Imagine a world where nothing is plugged in
(full article)

03.26.2007
State positioning itself to win in the hydrogen world
(full article)

03.25.2007
Is this the symbol of your economic future?
(full article)

03.25.2007
Five things that give South Carolina an edge
(full article)

03.16.2007
Innovation Drive-USC Team to Develop and Integrate National K-12 Fuel Cell Education and Awareness Program
(full article)

03.15.2007
Fuel Cell South Announces 4th Annual Southeastern Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Conference
(full article)

03.13.2007
Hydrogen research makes way in S.C.
(full article)

03.5.2007
South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance Executive Director Officially Begins Work Promoting State Resources
(full article)

03.04.2007
ALTERNATIVE ENERGY; Is the State Selling Its Fuel Cell Businesses Short?
(full article)


March 27, 2007
(view original article)

Imagine a world where nothing is plugged in

Columbia might get glimpse into future when it becomes Hydrogen City USA

Here’s a peek at the future ...

Cars and buses fueled by hydrogen cruise Columbia’s streets, stopping at a local hydrogen filling station to “gas” up.

Police officers patrol the Vista on hydrogen fuel cell-powered Segway personal transporters designed by a USC professor.

Fuel cells, looking like oversized air-conditioning units, perch on scattered downtown rooftops, powering some USC buildings, downtown condos and apartments.

Even the scoreboard at USC’s new baseball stadium is powered by fuel cells.

The gee-whiz applications are windows into the future — ideas of how much the technology could change modern life.

There still are plenty of scientific and technical hurdles that need to be overcome. But hydrogen and fuel cell technology could reverberate through our lives and our economy.

“It could be so revolutionary that it’s hard for a scientist to think about the possibilities without feeling like he’s dreaming,” said John Van Zee, director of the National Science Foundation center for joint industry-university fuel cell research, located at USC.

The target date for at least demonstrating the innovations above — some of which are already up and running — is the 2009 National Hydrogen Association meeting to be hosted by Columbia.

For at least that weekend, Colatown will become Hydrogen City USA and an international showcase for fuel cell technology.

Some call the event Columbia’s technology Olympics.

“This convention will be the most significant event in Columbia’s economic history,” said Mayor Bob Coble. “This is the largest convention we have ever had, and the most important.”

TOOLING AROUND TOWN

Local leaders gearing up for the conference have launched the Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge, asking companies for demonstration projects the city can show off.

Fuel cells are clearly still a nascent commercial market, and the USC-Columbia Fuel Cell Collaborative, which is sponsoring the challenge, is offering money to the products’ developers.

The biggest project on tap for 2009 is a hydrogen refueling station that would serve the 40 futuristic cars expected to roll in as part of the conference.

Having the “gas” station pumping by July 1, 2008, is a top priority for the city.

What could pull up to the pumps first?

How about a Beemer?

South Carolina, of course, is home to BMW’s only U.S. plant.

During last week’s national hydrogen conference, in San Antonio, the company introduced the Hydrogen 7, the world’s first hydrogen-powered luxury car. (European journalists test-drove the car in December in Germany.)

Limited editions of the car will be built in Europe and eventually sold in the United States. But it will be a decade or more before hydrogen-powered vehicles made by BMW or other companies are common, experts say.

The Hydrogen 7 is a bi-fuel car, burning hydrogen or gasoline. When running on hydrogen, it produces no greenhouse gases or toxic emissions, only water and heat.

Also by the spring of 2009, a hybrid-electric fuel cell bus should be cruising USC’s campus.

The bus is part of the National Fuel Cell Bus Program. Bringing it to Columbia is a joint venture of USC, the S.C. Research Authority and the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority.

The 37-passenger bus should run campus and city shuttle routes for up to a year.

And it will, in all likelihood, be the first opportunity for many people to ride in a hydrogen-powered vehicle.

The coolest hydrogen-powered ride in town, however, could be an H-powered Segway.

John Weidner, a USC professor of chemical engineering, is working on a demonstration project to put fuel cells in the trendy personal transporters.

The two-wheeled, mechanized scooter hit the market in 2002 and is already being used by police departments in cities such as Asheville, N.C.. Using fuel cells rather than electric batteries could give the transporter a larger range.

By 2009, Weidner hopes to have six fuel cell Segways to be used around the USC campus.

And he has turned the project into a business, so there could be orders for more.

Former graduate student Vijay Sethuraman worked with Van Zee on the project and earned a doctorate in chemical engineering in December. Sethuraman decided to stay in Columbia because of the buzz created by USC’s focus on fuel cell research and development.

Weidner thought that was perfect.

“Part of the challenge was to start businesses based upon our research,” Weidner said. “He wanted to know if there was a way to start a business and stay in the area and work on fuel cells. I told him that was exactly what Innovista (USC’s research campus) is trying to do — to keep our talent base here.”

Spinning off companies also can mean money for USC, which can share in the licensing or profits of the technology or the product developed.

PORTABLE POWER

While cars are the first thing people think of when they think of hydrogen, the earliest and most widespread use of fuel cells will likely come in a smaller package.

Portable power in the form of battery packs is expected to be among the first commercially viable uses.

Two projects are already under way in Columbia.

ETV is using hydrogen-powered batteries instead of conventional battery packs in a couple of video cameras. The hydrogen batteries are lighter and can be recharged more rapidly than the conventional packs.

ETV has used the cameras to cover a number of events, including a news conference at the State House. A crew recently used one of the cameras while shadowing state education Superintendent Jim Rex.

The Columbia Department of Homeland Security also has a fuel cell emergency power system, essentially a portable generator, for first-responders and police.

Everyday use, though, is still a high priority for researchers. Think small electronic devices: laptop computers, cell phones and BlackBerry devices.

“I actually think this new generation of information-on-demand will mean more than just better batteries,” Van Zee said. “Most of us are looking for a way to free ourselves from the electrical outlet. Fuel cells have the possibility to do that.”

HOMES AND OFFICES

Fuel cells also could transform the way people power their homes, severing their relationship with power companies.

Fuel cell systems the size of typical heat pumps, using hydrogen stored in a vessel resembling a propane tank, could produce enough electricity to run everything from washing machines to plasma TVs.

The only reason a hydrogen house would be on the power grid would be to sell electricity back to the utility company — a concept called net metering.

The same concept can apply to the workplace.

Benedict College soon will have a 5-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell backup power system at its Project Sustain community center near the campus.

The unit also will be used as a teaching tool by Benedict faculty.

USC, since Fall 2004, has had a 5-kilowatt fuel cell in use, providing some of the power for USC’s Green Dorm, in the West Quad on Sumter Street.

USC president Andrew Sorensen has challenged faculty, staff and students to come up with one fuel cell or other alternative energy project a year.

The first such project could be the scoreboard at USC’s new baseball program — a key entertainment venue for the Innovista campus and the city’s waterfront district near the Congaree River.

Hydrogen could be what makes the scoreboard flash.

But what hydrogen means to South Carolina can’t stop at the glitz and gee whiz.

“The vision also must include new opportunities for people to work in South Carolina,” Van Zee said. “That will be the means for economic growth in the future.”

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March 26, 2007
(view original article)

State positioning itself to win in the hydrogen world

In trying to build the best hydrogen fuel-cell research team in America, South Carolina has taken a page from George Steinbrenner’s playbook for building a great baseball team: Hire your competitors’ best players.

And, like the flamboyant New York Yankees owner, South Carolina has gotten good at it.

• The S.C. Hydrogen Coalition, which promotes the hydrogen economy in the state, hired as its new director Shannon Baxter-Clemmons, hydrogen fuel-cell adviser to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

• To manage its new technology campus, which will be home to the hydrogen fuel cell team, USC lured John Parks away from a successful run as manager of the University of Kentucky’s technology park.

• USC this spring hired Kenneth Reifsnider, director of the Connecticut Global Fuel Cell Center. Reifsnider has strong ties to United Technologies Corp., a fuel cell innovator with a huge interest in how hydrogen might hit the marketplace: Its subsidiaries make Carrier heating and air conditioning systems, Otis elevators and Pratt & Whitney aircraft engines.

Reifsnider’s departure created a bit of a buzz for South Carolina — and some panic in Connecticut.

When the news slipped out, Joel M. Rinebold of the Connecticut Hydrogen-Fuel Cell Coalition told The New York Times that South Carolina fuel cell education and training are tops in the nation.

But can South Carolina attract the right brainpower to become a leader in the “hydrogen economy”? To be to hydrogen what the Silicon Valley is to computers?

It doesn’t hurt that South Carolina has a growing economy — and yes, the weather is nice.

But there are other reasons South Carolina’s high-stakes gambit might succeed:

• South Carolina’s approach is a statewide one, with public and private cooperation.

• USC researchers have been breaking ground in hydrogen fuel cell research for several years.

• USC for four years has been home to the country’s only National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Fuel Cells.

USC’s School of Engineering has as many as 20 researchers at the center conducting cutting-edge research. And big-name industries are signing on as corporate partners.

The center’s mission is to hit the industry’s multibillion-dollar home run: Develop the technology to make fuel cells commercial — useful in everyday life — possibly even replacing electricity, batteries and gasoline as energy sources.

• The state has something few others have — a former nuclear weapons plant with 50 years of experience in producing and storing hydrogen. USC and the Savannah River National Laboratory near Aiken are sharing technology and expertise. And Aiken County has built a center just outside the plant to help transfer technology developed in the public sector to the private sector.

• Clemson University’s automotive research campus in Greenville, CU-ICAR, is getting ready to provide real-world testing for fuel cells developed for automobiles, thanks in large part to industry giant BMW, whose only North American plant is a dozen or so miles away.

• Clemson scientists have contributed major breakthroughs in improving membranes necessary for fuel cells.

• The state’s fledgling endowed chairs program is providing the real money it takes to attract more top researchers.

“If we are going to win, if we are going to move the university forward, we don’t just need a few stars, we need a constellation,” said John Van Zee, a core driver of USC’s fuel cell efforts and director of the National Science Foundation center. “That’s part of what we are trying to create here with these endowed chairs.”

MORE THAN ONE WAY TO WIN

Getting the science right will not be enough to make the state a world leader in an emerging industry.

Granted, whichever state makes the big breakthrough in the commercialization of hydrogen will attract researchers, federal dollars, private industry and jobs like a flame draws moths, like California attracted gold diggers in 1849.

But converting the science into products and services is another way to become a major player in a hydrogen-driven world.

To boost the state’s chances in finding applications for hydrogen, Clemson has brought in David Bodde, a former executive with the National Academy of Sciences and an expert on entrepreneurship. Bodde in February participated in a National Academy conference on the future of the hydrogen economy.

“I think we can win in this independent of where the breakthrough comes from in the science,” Bodde said. “We’d like it happen here, of course. But the entrepreneurship will be key to economic success.

“(Clemson is) a player. We don’t have a huge lead. We are kind of small in the game, but we have some advantages,” Bodde said.

Bodde cites a $2 million grant Clemson received from the Department of Energy to study the effects of impurities in hydrogen fuels. “If we weren’t getting these types of awards, we’d have to question our ability to play. But we are getting them.”

USC has received similar grants, including $2 million from the Department of Energy to collaborate with industry on high-temperature membranes, new catalysts and gaskets and seals, and $1.7 million from DOE for research on nonplatinum catalysts.

Tom Vogt, director of the USC NanoCenter, also expects his department to be a player in the commercialization of fuel cells.

“As an incubator (for new businesses), the question is always: What is the big picture? What is the end game?” Vogt said.

“The end game is that you become a sustainable entity, I mean scientifically, with world renown, and financially self-supporting,” Vogt said.

USC’s challenge, Van Zee said, has been to single out one or two fields of study with major commercial potential, and to excel in those areas.

“We can’t be excellent in everything,” Van Zee said.

The National Science Foundation endorsement has given the state great momentum. And it, in particular, has helped create a national buzz about fuel cell research in South Carolina.

But South Carolina has serious competition.

Ohio has invested more than $40 million in 30 fuel cell-related projects throughout the state. Last December, Rolls-Royce PLC, a British maker of power systems worldwide, announced it would build the U.S. headquarters of its fuel cell subsidiary in Ohio.

And California has been very successful in attracting private investment when the state has primed the pump. In just four southern California counties, $11 million in state incentives has generated $100 million in private investments.

But Bodde says those investments in current technology don’t necessarily rule out South Carolina as a player in future breakthroughs. One major scientific milestone could make all that investment in transitional technology obsolete, he said.

A LONG-TERM VISION

Most marketplace applications are years away.

In South Carolina, the gains being made now are small but significant.

The state has not yet produced its own Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, or Steve Jobs, who runs Apple Computer. But Van Zee believes the culture being created in Columbia could lead to an emerging company with a scientific breakthrough that will lead the transition to a hydrogen-fueled economy.

“We hope, with these endowed chairs and with the education our students are getting, to create some of those types of companies,” Van Zee said. “We are beginning to see some of our young Ph.D. graduates file for corporate charters with the state.”

“I think this is a real change for Columbia, for such companies to grow out of this university,” Van Zee said.

Vogt, the USC NanoCenter director, cautioned that the goal of economically sustainable industries built on academic research will be a multigenerational effort.

“Rarely do you have the people who have the vision and can then implement it,” Vogt said. “It is a different set of skills, a different culture even.”

“So I look at this as a very long ball game, and the guys who are on the mound pitching now will have made their contribution to the ballgame. And when you walk off in the ninth inning, even the guy who pitched in the first inning did his part,” Vogt said.

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March 25, 2007
(view original article)

Is this the symbol of your economic future?

USC president Andrew Sorensen’s sleep is the sleep of the faithful, of a true-believer in South Carolina’s future.

In Innovista, USC’s new research campus, Sorensen is convinced the school has a plan to help take the state not just into the 21st century but the 22nd.

South Carolina is counting on Sorensen, and his counterparts at MUSC and Clemson, to be right.

The state has lost manufacturing jobs steadily over the past decade. To compete in the global economy, South Carolina has shifted from an almost complete reliance on pursuing smokestack industries. Instead, the state is investing millions in its research universities — to attract top professors and knowledge-based companies, with hopes they’ll spin off even more companies.

It’s a jobs strategy S.C. leaders have been slow to pursue while other states have been speeding along. What gives South Carolina the chance to catch up is that USC, Clemson and the Medical University of South Carolina long ago turned their attention to leading-edge science.

USC is especially strong in the area of hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cell research. If the university can sustain its edge and momentum, experts say, the promising “alternative fuels” technology could add thousands of high-paying jobs and transform South Carolina’s economy.

Trying to guess which research field, such as hydrogen research, will be “hot” is a leap of faith. Everyone knows it.

But it’s a calculated leap, South Carolina’s leaders say, one the state can’t put off, and one that would benefit the entire state.

“The state will have three really strong economic development and research engines geographically located throughout the state,” said Rick Kelly, USC’s vice president for finance, who is shepherding Innovista’s construction. “We will broaden the economic base of this state.”

STEPPING OUT

Of the three research universities, perhaps making the greatest gambit is USC, which has plans that could eventually double the size of its campus.

And hydrogen research is what is putting the school on the national research map.

USC is focusing on four research areas: alternative energies, nanotechnology and the biomedical and environmental sciences.

But it is the school’s work with the new energy sources of hydrogen and fuel cells that has captured the public’s imagination.

The highly competitive field is also where USC and the state arguably have gained the most momentum. One Connecticut official recently described South Carolina to The New York Times as the most competitive of the two dozen or so hydrogen-focused states.

If true, it’s no small feat.

Hydrogen, and hydrogen-based fuel cells, could transform the economy the way the Internet did, experts say.

Fuel cells, battery-like devices that create energy by mixing hydrogen and oxygen, might one day power everything from laptops to cars, trucks, houses and businesses. And they could obviously lessen the country’s vulnerability to the geopolitics of oil.

Larry Wilson, a member of the USC Research Campus Foundation Board, believes South Carolina can be to hydrogen what Texas was to petroleum, that Columbia could be the new Houston.

But the first companies USC will attract won’t be fuel cell companies. Too few exist.

Many of the first companies are likely to be information technology or computer companies.

In fact, the first company USC has attracted is Duck Creek Technologies, a research-oriented insurance industry software company that Wilson is chairman of.

Duck Creek expects to have about 200 employees with an average salary of $83,000 working on campus. It will be located in the first “private partner” building at Innovista, a sort of vertical research park.

Wilson’s connection — and the fact that the company is a software developer instead of a fuel cell company — might have some people wondering.

But others say it’s a natural progression toward attracting more advanced fuel cell- and hydrogen-oriented companies.

And already on campus are a dozen industry partners working with USC researchers in the National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Fuel Cells.

Those companies — such has Boeing, John Deere, BASF and General Motors — can take discoveries gained through the center and turn them into products or services. The partners work in groups on projects and have access to patents developed.

BENDING EARS TO GET WHAT THEY NEED

For state leaders, including Sorensen, selling USC and South Carolina is an exercise in peddling the future.

It means proselytizing about future jobs, yet-to-be created companies and research that might exist only in lab notes.

That puts Sorensen and his vice president for research, Harris Pastides, in the pulpit.

It’s a new role for university leaders, who over the years mostly watched while the state’s politicians and business leaders worked to create jobs.

Pastides thinks it’s a natural fit.

“Flagship research is not about the Ivory Tower. It’s about Main Street,” Pastides likes to say.

The country’s use of technology is increasing, he said. But “that doesn’t mean every research park in the country is going to make it. All you do is put a sign up and hope you can fill it.”

But Pastides believes Columbia will make it and Innovista will make it. He and Sorensen tell that to every researcher and industry head they get on the university’s plane to recruit, every congressman who will listen and every Rotary Club that will have them.

USC’s previous work will go a long way toward long-term success, Pastides said.

Top USC scientists have been working for years on fuel cells and related issues such as hydrogen production and storage.

When the NSF four years ago created the country’s only industry-university center for fuel cell research at USC, the university’s “mission picked up momentum like a snowball rolling downhill,” said professor John Van Zee.

“When Dr. Sorensen arrived, he saw the potential, and the snowball got bigger,” said Van Zee, who first proposed the NSF center.

The school also now can hire researchers who are stars in their fields, thanks to $30 million set aside by state lawmakers each year since 2003. The money pays for endowed chairs, which includes higher salaries for professors, the salaries of the professor’s research teams, expensive equipment and new labs.

State money, too — $70 million in bonds so far — is going toward USC’s buildings. Richland County and the city of Columbia are paying more than $30 million for two parking garages.

Going up at the corner of Blossom and Assembly streets, in the Horizon Center complex, are two of the five buildings planned so far for Innovista.

The 125,000-square-foot academic building will house USC researchers in alternative fuels as well as in chemistry, engineering and nanotechnology. It will be home to NSF’s fuel cell center.

The other building is for USC’s industry partners. It’s being built with private money by Craig Davis, who developed N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh.

The academic building also will house an incubator for start-up companies. EngenuitySC, a nonprofit dedicated to spurring a knowledge-based economy in the Midlands, is using a $1 million federal grant to create the incubator, complete with lab space.

Pastides appreciates the help.

It’s mission-critical, he said — that kind of lab space simply isn’t available elsewhere at USC.

BUMP IN THE ROAD

Some folks are anxious that things aren’t going faster for USC.

People in Columbia are impatient, said Davis, the N.C. developer, “but everybody has just got to calm down. It will all happen. It is just taking a little bit of time.”

There was a bump in the road late last year, though. A big bump.

USC thought it had a home run in Project Genesis. Officials say they were well on their way to landing an unnamed Fortune 100 information technology company when the company backed out.

Business conditions were forcing the business to lay off thousands nationwide, Sorensen said. A company officer told Sorensen that company leaders couldn’t announce layoffs on Monday, then turn around Tuesday and say they were investing millions in a Columbia facility.

The deal was incredibly close to happening, said John Lumpkin, a Columbia real estate consultant who was interim director of Innovista at the time. “The transaction was done, a lease was negotiated.” The deal was headed to the company’s board for “the final Good Housekeeping seal.”

Genesis was to occupy nearly all of Davis’ building, which was being designed specifically for the company.

The enormity of the deal might have led USC to put too much emphasis on the project.

“Our regular Tuesday morning Innovista meetings became 90 percent about Genesis,” Pastides said.

He said he worried then about neglecting other prospects.

“But there was just no time — this was so big. Basically, the prevailing attitude was, get this one, get the big kahuna, and others are gonna drop,” Pastides said.

Genesis became a lesson learned.

“The thing that I learned from that is that we don’t go fishing with one pole,” Sorensen said.

They had worked on Genesis for more than a year.

One of the biggest lessons has been the need to manage expectations. “We had a team meeting, and we recognized that we let Genesis get too far out ahead of us, and expectations got too high,” said USC’s financial officer, Kelly. “When that failed, it crushed (us).”

Since Genesis, John Parks, with the University of Kentucky since 2004, joined USC as executive director for Innovista and associate vice president for economic development.

Pre-Parks, the recruitment of possible Innovista tenants was coordinated by Lumpkin and split largely between Lumpkin, Davis, Sorensen, Kelly and Pastides.

Lumpkin gets credit for steering the team through a learning curve. “There wasn’t a recipe,” he said. “We didn’t open up a cookbook, and say, ‘OK, recipe No. 4, let’s go cook up a research knowledge economy.’”

Part of why USC went out and got Parks, Pastides said, was to become more focused on corporate recruiting and to learn from someone who has been doing it.

“Nobody in the country has a book on how to do that,” Pastides said.

Sorensen, as he has been, will continue to be involved personally in much of the recruiting.

PROSPECTS

Word about Innovista is spreading, and Sorensen talks to prospects that are fuel cell-related and those that are not.

And not all the prospects want to lease space from Davis.

“I had a CEO and a vice president for financial affairs of a company that wants to build a 110,000-square-foot building in Innovista,” Sorensen said.

Recently, he met with a fuel cell manufacturer. “I’m talking to people all the time,” he said.

Davis has an office and a team of four in Columbia, plus a project manager who comes in regularly from Raleigh. Davis said he spends two to three days a week on Innovista, mostly on recruiting.

“There are over 20 prospects that I call real prospects, not suspects, that we are working closely with,” Davis said.

Pastides and Parks both talk about the need to follow up with prospects every day. Success doesn’t come overnight, they say.

“I think you are always thrilled to hit a home run,” Parks said. But “sometimes it can take two to three years to get from the initiation of a project to getting a presence.”

The hydrogen and fuel cell piece of Innovista, especially, is a long-range proposition.

The S.C. Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Economy Strategy, crafted in 2005 by scientists and state business, university and community leaders, lays out a 20-year plan.

It calls for landing the first hydrogen and fuel cell companies between now and 2010. Growth would accelerate from 2011 to 2015, bringing 2,000 to 3,000 new jobs and 40 to 50 new companies.

Between 2016 and 2025, the state should have a mature industry, with 8,000 to 12,000 jobs and an equal number of supply-chain and secondary service jobs.

Those connected with Innovista frequently cite Harvard professor Michael Porter’s comment about reinventing South Carolina’s economy: “This is a marathon, not a sprint.”

But things are going well, USC officials say. There are a lot of prospects, Parks said.

“When I got to Kentucky, I hit the ground standing,” he said. There was no activity. Only inertia. He had to get things going.

“Here, I liken it a little more to hopping on a galloping horse,” Parks said.

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March 25, 2007
(view original article)

Five things that give South Carolina an edge

South Carolina has an impressive advantage in its quest to be a major fuel cell research center, experts say.

• USC is home to the country’s only National Science Foundation center for joint industry-university fuel cell research. The four-year-old center uses federal dollars to bring together the best entrepreneurial research efforts from the public and private sectors.

• The state’s former nuclear weapons plant, the Savannah River Site, has been named a national laboratory. The site — 310 square miles in Aiken and Barnwell counties — has 50 years of experience in producing and storing hydrogen. The designation brings increased visibility and prestige and the chance to compete for a broader range of Department of Energy missions.

• Clemson’s automotive research campus, CU-ICAR, in Greenville, is preparing for a range of auto systems research. It could provide a ready-made test lab for any number of auto-related hydrogen innovations.

• An unusual level of state, city and university cooperation, combined with the vocal support of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis. Researchers moving here have repeatedly cited this multi-tiered cooperation as a key component of South Carolina’s attraction.

• National buzz, which in part has led to Columbia’s selection as host for the annual meeting in 2009 of the National Hydrogen Association.

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March 16, 2007
(view original press release)

Innovation Drive-USC Team to Develop and Integrate National K-12 Fuel Cell Education and Awareness Program

Alexandria, VA - Innovation Drive, a technology commercialization company, has been selected to lead a multi-state team to develop, pilot, and integrate a national education program to foster better understanding of hydrogen and fuel cell technology. This project, co-sponsored by the South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance and the Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge, will leverage South Carolina’s familiarity with the technology, infrastructure, and environmental benefits of the hydrogen economy to help prepare students across the nation for the transition to hydrogen as a key component of a clean, sustainable energy economy over the coming decades.

As a way of localizing their efforts, Innovation Drive has partnered with an interdisciplinary team of faculty members from the University of South Carolina (USC) to provide experience and expertise in developing a technical curriculum to assist teachers and students in becoming more knowledgeable about hydrogen and fuel cell technology. The program will conform to national and state progressive learning standards.

The USC Center for Science Education, College of Education, College of Engineering and Information Technology, and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication will be integral in building awareness and gaining public acceptance of hydrogen technology. Ideally, this exposure will also stimulate student interest in science and create demand for skills-related education applicable to a hydrogen economy.

Phase I of the program will develop “beta” materials to be tested in Richland and Aiken Counties in South Carolina. Concurrently, the team will establish program goals and a comprehensive plan for national implementation. In essence, any school system in the country will be able to use the curricula to achieve educational milestones while exposing future generations to hydrogen and fuel cell technology and its benefits.

“Richland School District One is proud to play a role in the advancement of hydrogen and fuel cell technology in South Carolina. We are especially pleased that we were chosen to pilot an education program that will educate students across the state about the benefits of environmentally-friendly hydrogen fuel,” said Allen Coles, Superintendent, Richland County School District One.

“What a great opportunity for our community!  I am excited to have Aiken County Public School students selected to participate in the pilot hydrogen and fuel cell technology program,” said Dr. Linda Eldridge, Superintendent, Aiken County Schools

“We are pleased to participate in such an important and prestigious effort to cultivate awareness of hydrogen and fuel cell technology,” said Carla York, CEO of Innovation Drive. “We commend South Carolina in its forward thinking and strategic planning to develop a usable national education program. And we are privileged to work with the University of South Carolina whose experience and expertise will be essential in realizing this beneficial program.”

"Educating future generations on emerging hydrogen technologies is extremely important as they develop the skills needed to compete in future market places,” said Ms. York. “Ideally, this education program will not only inform and educate, but also inspire these children to embrace sciences and become the generation that brings a profitable, environmentally-friendly, and sustainable hydrogen economy to full fruition.”

Fred Humes, Chairman of the SC Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance commented, “Education at all levels is a critical element in advancing hydrogen and fuel cell technology.” The team of Innovation Drive, USC, and Richland and Aiken school districts will have both a state-wide and national impact.”

“This is truly an exciting initiative that we are developing,” said Professor Ed Dickey, Chairman of the Department of Instruction and Teacher Education at the College of Education at USC. “Often educational products do not meet the needs of teachers or students. This program and its accompanying materials will provide exciting fuel cell related resources for teachers that address state and national science standards in a manner that engages and motivates students; all packaged in an easy-to-use format customized for universal application from state to state.”

In addition to the traditional curriculum materials, the team has also devised a branding campaign that will ensure everyone recognizes the value of hydrogen as a fuel. The H2FUEL4U brand will speak to the obvious and subtle uses of hydrogen as a fuel for any variety of applications including fuel cell technology and other applications.

During the Phase I, The team’s Advisory Committee, comprised of industry, science, and education experts from around the country, will provide guidance, establish goals and clear a pathway for future initiatives planned over the next two years. Additionally, the team will seek contributions, collaboration, and participation from other universities, government agencies, laboratories, and educational foundations to fulfill programmatic goals during Phase II.

Specifically, the program will partner with state agencies and resources in two other states across the country in order to establish a diverse environment in which the program is developed and piloted. This geographic approach will be integral to ensuring the program and educational materials are usable with progressive learning standards that vary from state to state. It will also establish a footprint from which the national program may expand.

Funding for the SC project will come from the SC Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance and its member organizations and the Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge. During the initial phase, Innovation Drive and the proposed Advisory Committee will identify and pursue other funding opportunities. The team believes several federal, state and private institutions will be interested in contributing to the program’s future development and success.

"The proposal submitted by Innovation Drive fits nicely within our overall objective of creating an innovation pipeline around hydrogen and fuel cell technology" said Russ Keller, demonstration project manager for the Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge.  "We are excited by the opportunity to partner with the South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance to extend the reach or this initiative throughout the state of South Carolina and beyond."

Editorial Notes:

Innovation Drive, Inc., headquartered in Alexandria, VA, provides integrated solutions through operational and management support, strategic planning, and team building. The company’s mission is to commercialize new technologies and processes that improve performance, efficiency, and economic prosperity and reduce environmental impacts and dependence on imported energy. Its business strategies and marketing-related services permit streamlined product introduction and market acceptance for its partners and clients, resulting in energy savings, emissions reductions, security improvements, greater profit potential and public benefit for U.S. and international markets in Transportation, Energy and Homeland Security. ID and its technology partners offer deployable products, including new transit technology for emission reduction and operational efficiency, renewable energy, electrolytic hydrogen production, energy storage, and green building materials.

University of South Carolina

Center for Science Education will provide expertise in developing science curricula and standards-based tools for different audiences.

College of Education will coordinate overall program content and materials development, drawing on the exceptional pedagogical and instructional experience of its faculty. The COE will analyze national and state progressive learning standards as well as package content for different audiences and educational levels.

College of Engineering and Information Technology will provide technical input and content review to ensure accuracy of information in the education process.

School of Journalism and Mass Communication will help brand the program and provide graphics and design services. Additionally, the SJMC will help promote the program through an aggressive integrated campaign including public relations, community relations, targeted trade advertising and other promotional initiatives to help educate and integrate the final program into school systems nationwide.

The South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance (SCHFCA)

The South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance is a non-profit partnership of government, business, academia and citizens working together to grow the economies of local communities, the state and the nation, enable energy security and limit our environmental footprint with the use of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies that are cost-effective, convenient and produced with local resources.

Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge (GCFCC)

The Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge seeks to engage firms and service providers to partner with the City of Columbia and the University of South Carolina to assist in the design and implementation of a groundbreaking plan involving unprecedented integration of hydrogen fuel cell technology into multiple aspects of the city and the University. Columbia’s vision of becoming the first planned end-to-end Fuel Cell District will be realized by building the innovation pipeline around fuel cells in three phases: Discovery, Development and Deployment. The GCFCC is looking for industry partners involved in fuel cell research, education, energy distribution, transportation, manufacturing and commercialization as they adopt and utilize real world applications and provide a home for cutting edge demonstration projects.

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March 15, 2007
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Fuel Cell South Announces 4th Annual Southeastern Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Conference

 COLUMBIA, S.C. – March 15, 2007 – FuelCellSouth announced today its 4th annual Southeastern Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Conference, which will be held May 2 – 4, 2007 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center in Columbia, South Carolina.   The theme for this year's conference is "Collaboration, Consensus and Commitment – the Catalysts for Realizing the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Economy."

 

"Collaboration demands character and heart," said Tom Militello, Executive Director for FuelCellSouth.  "Over the last several years FuelCellSouth has worked with industry, researchers, entrepreneurs and government officials to facilitate the emergence of a hydrogen and fuel cell economy in the southeastern United States. "We are achieving the vision through real relationships, teamwork and trust," added Militello.

 

FuelCellSouth 2007 opens on Wednesday, May 2, with an in-depth review of the collaborative activities underway throughout the eleven-state FuelCellSouth region. Highlights of the program include hydrogen fueling stations and vehicle programs in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.  The Wednesday program is co-sponsored by The Center for Hydrogen Research and the South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance.  The Hydrogen Day program, will feature speakers on the topics of hydrogen production, infrastructure and distribution in support of portable fuel cells, power generation and transportation solutions. 

 

On Thursday, May 3, and Friday, May 4, FuelCellSouth conference attendees will have the opportunity to attend sessions of the Korea - USA Fuel Cell Symposium, a scientific and engineering forum sponsored by the Korea Institute of Energy Research and University of South Carolina.  "This event is one example of collaboration underway to overcome the barriers for reliable fuel cell operation," said Dr. John Van Zee, Director of the National Science Foundation Industry / University Collaborative Research Center for Fuel Cells at University of South Carolina.

 

 Also, on Thursday, May 3, and Friday, May 4, FuelCellSouth will host its Spring Partners Forum.  The FuelCellSouth Partners Forum provides case studies and panel presentations on the applications of portable, stationary, and vehicular fuel cells for business, government and consumer sectors.  Three new tracks and case study sessions are offered this year for municipalities and county government officials to explore the latest fuel cell products, which are ready for prime-time implementation and emerging technologies, which will be in the market shortly.

 

About FuelCellSouth - FuelCellSouth is a 501(c)(6) industry association whose core mission is to foster awareness and create market opportunities for fuel cells in the southeastern United States.   Founded in 2003 as an annual conference for fuel cell industry pundits, FuelCellSouth provides today the market education platform and technical support environment for researchers, industry, entrepreneurs and government officials to reach the marketplace with their research, technologies, products and services.

 

For more registration information and a detailed FuelCellSouth 2007 program agenda visit www.fuelcellsouth.com.

 

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March 13, 2007
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Hydrogen research makes way in S.C.

The new executive director of the S.C. Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance offered the Rotary Club of Aiken a glimpse into the future Monday.

Dr. Shannon Baxter-Clemmons, a Charleston-area native who took over the Alliance on March 1, discussed the ongoing research into hydrogen energy, fuel cells and other alternative fuels at the weekly lunch gathering of Rotarians at the Aiken Municipal Center conference center.

"We're talking about changing the way we look at energy in the United States and world," she said.

Baxter-Clemmons, a University of South Carolina graduate, returned to the Palmetto State this month after helping to develop California's "Hydrogen Highway" project to build hydrogen fueling stations along that state's interstate highways. She holds a doctorate in chemical engineering from USC and performed graduate research on direct methane fuel cells at the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago before moving to California to work with the California Environmental Protection Agency.

Though other states have garnered national attention for their hydrogen research, "South Carolina probably has the largest number of researchers in one state working on hydrogen research," said Baxter-Clemmons.

USC, Clemson and South Carolina State have joined Aiken's Center for Hydrogen Research, the Savannah River National Laboratory and the S.C. Department of Commerce in conducting groundbreaking hydrogen research under the S.C. Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance banner.

As work continues here, more private enterprises interested in alternative fuels also will begin to find South Carolina more attractive, according to Baxter-Clemmons. She specifically mentioned Toyota, which is a partner in the work being done at the Center for Hydrogen Research.

"We're working on ways to get (companies) to come here," she said. "If they don't want to relocate — which it's a very difficult thing to get a company to relocate — then maybe they'll build a manufacturing plant here. Maybe they would put a service facility here. Maybe we would get start-ups that are coming out of the universities, all of these researchers getting the dynamics working together."

Numerous federal and state agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy, also hold a keen interest in the hydrogen research being done in Aiken and other sites around the state.

All of this attention on alternative fuels is creating an environment that will encourage a new generation of scientists — young people now studying in high schools and universities — to keep South Carolina at the forefront of hydrogen and fuel cell research.

"The education is getting through. They are going to think of ways to use hydrogen fuel cells that we cannot even imagine," Baxter-Clemmons said.

The Rotary Club of Aiken meets every Monday at noon at the Municipal Center. Bob Newburn is the club president.

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 March 5, 2007

South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance Executive Director Officially Begins Work Promoting State Resources

Columbia, S.C. – As of March 1, Shannon Baxter-Clemmons, Ph.D., has begun work as the Executive Director of the South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance can be contacted via one of the methods below.

Shannon Baxter-Clemmons, Ph.D
Executive Director
South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance
1201 Main St., Suite 1600
Columbia, SC 29201
Phone: (803) 737-0631
Cell: (803) 727-2897
Fax: (803) 737-0818
baxterclemmons@schydrogen.org

Baxter-Clemmons previously served as the Assistant Secretary for Hydrogen and Alternative Fuels Policy at the California Environmental Protection Agency and will be responsible for coordinating the development and promotion of hydrogen and fuel cell initiatives across the state.

The South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance, SCHFCA, is a nonprofit organization founded in January 2006 from six core members dedicated to hydrogen and fuel cell initiatives: the Center for Hydrogen Research, Clemson University, the Savannah River National Laboratory, SC Department of Commerce, S.C. State University and the University of South Carolina.

In its first year, SCHFCA has introduced hydrogen-related legislation in our state and secured a significant industry meeting, the 2009 National Hydrogen Association conference. The conference is expected to bring more than $1 million in economic impact to the Columbia area through the attendance of hundreds of exhibitors and participants. SCHFCA has also sponsored a national student design competition and developed a plan for a statewide hydrogen fueling infrastructure.

SCHFCA is leading the way towards making South Carolina a significant contributor to the national and international hydrogen economies. For more information on the South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance, please visit www.SCHydrogen.org

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March 4, 2007
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ALTERNATIVE ENERGY; Is the State Selling Its Fuel Cell Businesses Short?

While Connecticut may have the largest concentration of fuel cell-related companies in the nation, sentiment is growing that it could be in danger of losing its edge to other states that now consider fuel cells a lucrative endeavor in alternative energy.

"The industry is ours to lose -- it's as simple as that,'' said Joel M. Rinebold, director of energy initiatives for the Connecticut Hydrogen-Fuel Cell Coalition, a two-year-old consortium of business, government, academia and others. The coalition's goal is to spur the development, manufacture and use of fuel cells, but some worry that the state has not been fast enough or bold enough in its efforts.

Mr. Rinebold rattles off a list of states working hard to become more competitive, noting that the most prominent, South Carolina, recently lured away the director of the University of Connecticut's Global Fuel Cell Center for its own fuel cell educational and training operation at the University of South Carolina.

"We know them, and we know they know us," Mr. Rinebold said.

Fuel cells create energy by mixing hydrogen and oxygen, emitting water and steam that can be used for heat and hot water. They are extremely efficient and are generally embraced by environmentalists, with one caveat: In most cases, the fuel used to make the hydrogen is natural gas, which is neither clean nor renewable.

Despite publicity about fuel cells' potential use in cars, the commercial use most developed now is for power generation. In Connecticut, small-scale fuel cells power a handful of places, including the Pepperidge Farm bakery in Bloomfield and South Windsor High School.

The prospect of large units that would put power directly into an electric grid is especially tantalizing in the Northeast, where the grid is congested and the power sources dirty. These so-called stationary fuel cells are at the core of Connecticut's industry.

Representative John B. Larson, a Democrat from East Hartford who helped found the House Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Caucus in 2004, says fuel cells could become Connecticut's No. 1 export, but adds: ''I don't think the state is as aggressive as it should be. We probably have the biggest cluster of fuel cell companies than any state in the union. How long will that last?''

In January, the coalition released its preliminary plan for the industry's development in Connecticut. The plan estimates that the companies involved in the fuel cell industry in Connecticut -- about 100 -- employ more than 2,100 people and had revenues of $400 million in 2005.

Those numbers could grow in the next decade to 120,000 jobs and $18.6 billion in annual revenue, according to the plan. But a blueprint for how to reach those goals is still nearly a year away, and some see opportunities slipping because, they say, the state has not been aggressive enough in demonstrating its own products.

"I have more jobs pending in South Carolina than in Connecticut, and at the moment, in Connecticut, I have zero,'' said Robert J. Friedland, senior vice president of hydrogen technology at Proton Energy Systems in Wallingford, the state's third-largest fuel-cell-related company. ''The state isn't taking the threat of losing fuel cell companies or losing fuel cell technology seriously enough.''

But that does not mean that Connecticut has been idle. In addition to participating in the coalition and establishing the Global Fuel Cell Center several years ago, the State Department of Transportation is studying the potential use of fuel cells to power Metro-North trains and stations.

And in 2003, the legislature created Project 100, which requires the development of long-term clean energy generation to put power into the grid. Industry experts say they believe that one of those generation units will be a fuel cell.

''It will show the world that fuel cells can work on a larger scale, which would be a huge boost to the industry,'' said Lise Dondy, president of the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, which oversees Project 100. ''In effect, we're going to be a laboratory for the world for the fuel cell industry.''

But many say progress is not happening fast enough. Bidding problems have delayed the awarding of Project 100 contracts, in turn frustrating investors (a meeting to discuss the contracts is scheduled for March 26). In December, Citigroup cited Project 100's lag in a bleak assessment of Fuel Cell Energy of Danbury, the second-largest fuel cell company in the world, founded in 1969.

''The stock market is exhausted with these companies,'' said David Redstone, editor of Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Investor, a newsletter. ''With every passing day, I'm more doubtful.''

He and others said an early influx of investment money made fuel cell companies overly ambitious when neither the technology nor the cost was ready for prime time.

''There's a general 'Let's be careful with this industry' attitude, mainly because the industry made a lot of promises and didn't keep them,'' said Jan van Dokkum, president of UTC Power in South Windsor, the world's largest fuel cell company and a division of United Technologies, which pioneered the modern fuel cell for the Apollo space program.

UTC Power has about 260 fuel cell units in 19 countries and continues to develop fuel cells for NASA and the military. A fuel cell bus developed for Hartford by UTC is expected to be ready in April.

But what many analysts see as the most lucrative market for fuel cells -- batteries for small electronic devices -- is not part of Connecticut's fuel cell profile.

At FuelCell Energy, the average price per kilowatt for a small fuel cell unit has fallen to about $4,800 from about $20,000 10 years ago, but the goal is $2,000 per kilowatt to make it competitive with conventional energy. Most people familiar with the industry say major cost decreases and industry growth require a more concerted effort by government at all levels.

While President Bush and Gov. M. Jodi Rell have mentioned fuel cells as important potential energy sources, some question whether they have been forceful enough. ''It would need to get the same kind of broad policy support as solar has gotten,'' said R. Dan Brdar, president and chief executive of FuelCell Energy.

''It's like we're the Detroit of the automotive world in the 1920s,'' said Mr. Rinebold, of the Hydrogen-Fuel Cell Coalition. ''Much of it could happen here, if we do it right.''

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