May 2007

USC, Australian university to work on hydrogen technology together
(full article)

Why should fuel cells be a hard sell?
(full article)

May 15, 2007
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USC, Australian university to work on hydrogen technology together

Business ventures between South Carolina and Queensland, Australia, got a leg up last week with the signing of two agreements between USC president Andrew Sorensen and Queensland Premier Peter Beattie.

The agreements outline joint efforts in developing hydrogen energy and commercializing technology coming out of USC and the University of Queensland.

The agreements were signed during Beattie’s fifth visit to the state. Queensland and South Carolina share a sister-state relationship dating from 1999 that includes scientific and cultural ties.

Beattie also spoke at USC’s graduation ceremonies Friday and received an honorary doctor of laws degree.

Beattie is pleased with the relationship.

“It took a little while to sort of get momentum, but now it has momentum,” the premier said. The relationship is a seven out of 10 now, he said.

The strength now is in the agreements among various university sector partners, he said.

“What we have to do now is actually get into the general business community,” Beattie said. “ There is some of that. But I have to be honest. That is the next challenge for us.”

The new agreements signed with USC certainly will help efforts to create business ties between the two states.

The commercialization agreement includes pledges to open business incubators in South Carolina and Queensland to startup companies from each state.

The expanded USC Columbia Technology Incubator now will be available to companies from Queensland, said Harris Pastides, USC vice president for research. Conversely, the state government-sponsored iLab Incubator Facility at Toowong in Queensland will be open to S.C. companies, Beattie said.

Pastides said Queensland offers a model for South Carolina. Beattie has transformed Queensland, and it is “probably now the most intense area of cluster formation in biotech and in other industries,” Pastides said.

Pastides visited Australia earlier this year and said he found that other Australian states are worried about the progress Queensland has made. Queensland now is known as “ The Smart State,” Pastides said. “I think we all have a lot to learn from him.”

Beattie is excited about the prospects for an S.C. trade mission that is scheduled to go to Queensland and other parts of Australia in October. He pitched the trade mission during a dinner at the Governor’s Mansion on Thursday.

Like South Carolina, most Queensland companies are small- to medium-sized businesses.

“This business delegation is an opportunity to sort of pair people up. They can come over and have a look themselves,” Beattie said. Queensland can provide “a good, cautious, secure start without expending a lot of money,” he said.

Australia also can help small companies take the leap into China and other parts of Asia, Beattie said.

The U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement that went into effect in 2005 now makes it much easier for S.C. companies to do business in his country, Beattie said. “It is just like doing business between Charleston and Columbia,” he said.

The joint efforts on hydrogen research should help both states in developing alternative fuels.

“The effect of global warming makes it imperative that we accelerate the development of viable green-fuel alternatives,” Beattie said.

The University of Queensland leads the recently formed National Hydrogen Materials Alliance, funded by $10 million over three years. And USC has a leadership role in developing a hydrogen economy in South Carolina.

The two universities have agreed to jointly support the two biggest hydrogen conferences in the world over the next few years.

Brisbane, Queensland’s capital, will host the 2008 World Hydrogen Conference in June 2008. while the U.S. National Hydrogen Association annual conference will be in Columbia in 2009.

Beattie has been premier, the equivalent of governor, since 1998. Relationships between the two states got their start in discussions with former S.C. Gov. David Beasley, were formalized under former Gov. Jim Hodges, and have expanded under Gov. Mark Sanford.

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May 6, 2007
(view original article)

Why should fuel cells be a hard sell?

In a room full of people working to create a fuel-cell and hydrogen industry, Sam Logan posed the question:

"How many of you anticipate buying a product in the next year that will be powered by a fuel cell?"


Not a single hand went up during the first session of the 4th Annual FuelCellSouth Conference.

"I'm ashamed of you," said Logan, chief executive officer of Logan Energy, a Roswell, Ga.-based fuel-cell company.

"There are products out there today that are commercial. If you have the ability to make purchasing decisions, you really should consider that.

"Before long, you will be able to buy all sorts of devices that are powered by small, portable fuel cells, so look for them."

A lack of public awareness about the industry and its products, the importance of the industry and the impact the industry can make on people's lives on an individual and national level is seen as one of the major stumbling blocks to success.

While many people are open to the idea of hydrogen energy and fuel cells, most simply have no opinion, said Shannon Baxter-Clemmons, executive director of the S.C. Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance.

Or they might have a misperception based on an incident that happened 70 years ago today.

On May 6, 1937, the German zeppelin Hindenburg, the largest airship ever built, crashed while landing at Lakehurst, N.J., in a spectacular fireball. Thirty-six people died.

The lighter-than-air craft was kept aloft by hydrogen and the flammable gas has been blamed by many for the fire and deaths.

But the real cause of the disaster is unknown.

The connection between hydrogen and the Hindenburg disaster in the popular imagination shows the need to educate.

"There is a need to keep more emphasis on hydrogen and fuel cells and what they mean to society," Baxter-Clemmons said.

South Carolina has the opportunity to lead that effort.

Columbia and South Carolina have become a recognized force in the development of a fuel-cell and hydrogen industry.

USC is considered one of the premier universities for hydrogen and fuel-cell research.

Annual meetings like those of FuelCellSouth and EngenuitySC are drawing some of the most influential leaders in the industry.

Last year, Valri Lightner, fuel-cell team leader for the U.S. Department of Energy; Bob Rose, executive director of the U.S. Fuel Cell Council; and Baxter-Clemmons, who was then involved in the California Hydrogen Highway project, all spoke at FuelCellSouth.

This year's program included Jan van Dokkum, president of UTC Power, a United Technologies company and one of the leaders in the fuel-cell industry; Logan; and several other prominent industry executives.

David Ramm, chief executive officer of Millennium Cell, calls FuelCellSouth one of the most important fuel-cell conferences in the United States.
Millennium Cell has partnered with USC, and Ramm said he expects the company's presence in South Carolina to grow.

While fuel-cell and hydrogen researchers and industry executives now clearly understand South Carolina's importance to the nascent hydrogen economy, getting the message out to the public is more difficult.

To help get the word out, the Alliance has acquired The National Hydrogen Tour.

The large traveling exhibit gives people the opportunity to learn about and experience the future of hydrogen through interactive pavilions and displays.

A portion of the large educational exhibit was on display in the convention center’s exhibit hall during the conference. While some members of the public did view the tour, the alliance is looking for ways to make it more accessible.

"If you have a meeting, a conference, and you have a use for it, let us know, and we'll do the best we can to see if we can get a piece of it there," Baxter-Clemmons said. To do that, call the Alliance at (803) 737-0631 or go to its Web site,

One effort being made to demonstrate to Columbia what fuel cells can mean is the Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge.

The challenge already is helping fund some 10 demonstration projects around the area.

A request for proposals for Phase II of the challenge is expected to be issued around July 1, said Russ Keller of the S.C. Research Authority, which is helping pay for the challenge.

A lot of the projects, including a hydrogen-refueling station, will be up and running when the National Hydrogen Association holds its annual meeting in Columbia in the spring of 2009.

But SCRA "is not funding demonstration projects just to do science projects for a year and have them pack up and go home," Keller said.

The hope is that the types of projects being funded will demonstrate the commercial viability of fuel cells and lead to new businesses and jobs.

SCRA will be buying some fuel cells this year, Keller told Logan later.

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