November 2006

On the Road with Alternative Fuels: From Germany to South Carolina
(full article)

Savannah River National Laboratory, Center for Hydrogen Research, team up to build hydrogen power system
(full article)

DOE awards $2 million to Clemson hydrogen research
(full article)

November 29, 2006
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On the Road with Alternative Fuels: From Germany to South Carolina

Tired of paying high gas prices at the pump? Wish you could burn fuels that create less air pollution? News Channel 7 sent me to Germany, one of the world's leading countries in the use and development of alternative fuels. I looked into how alternative fuels are saving Germans money and reducing air pollution and what it will take to get more environmentally friendly cars on our local roads in South Carolina.

Look anywhere in Germany, you'll see alternative fuel cars. One-fourth run on diesel, emitting less carbon monoxide than gas, and it costs $.30 less per gallon.

Germany has removed gas taxes on alternative fuels to get drivers to reduce their dependence on oil. Said Maike Pannier with the ADAC, the German automobile club, "Its not just important for Germany, its important for all of us worldwide, because we all know our resources are very limited."

60 thousand vehicles in Germany run on LPG, Liquified Petroleum Gas, which costs 35% less than gas and cuts pollution. Said Hans-Peter Kahland, an Automotive Engineer with IAV, "You can cut down your CO emissions by 35%. You bring down the emissions of NOx by half."

Another 40 thousand vehicles run on CNG, Compressed Natural Gas, producing 80% less Nitrogen Oxide and costs about half that of gas.

There are several buses in Germany that run entirely on Hydrogen and produce virtually no emissions or noise. It's an experiment by the European Union, Government Agencies, and TOTAL Gas. Said Wolfgang Leder of TOTAL Deustchland GmbH, "We're working for the day we can really drive Hydrogen cars, make it accessible for the public, but also feasible."

You can walk down any street in Germany and see the high number of alternative fuel vehicles on the roads. But when you travel back to the United States, the numbers get a lot smaller.

The American Automobile Association says only about 10% of vehicles nationwide in the U.S. use alternatives, from electric hybrids to flex or bio fuels.

"I think we're beginning to get it but I don't think we're there yet, " said Congressman Bob Inglis of Greenville, South Carolina. Inglis has proposed a bill to create an H-prize, an incentive to encourage the development of hydrogen vehicles. Right now BMW is putting Hydrogen cars on California roads.

Said Inglis, "BMW's interest in Hydrogen, the ICAR project, the University of South Carolina's fuel cell center, and the Transportation Center at South Carolina State, and South Carolina can really play a role in this."

Meanwhile, you can get a $300 tax rebate if you buy a flex fuel car. You can fill it with B20 made from soybeans or E85, part ethanol. South Carolina has more alternative gas stations than many other states.

South Carolina state government uses two thousand alternative fuel vehicles, plus some school buses. The City of Union and the University of South Carolina are using B20 in some vehicles, too. But the challenge is clear. For most consumers, the cost of driving alternative fuel cars still needs to come down.

When asked what advice he would give to Americans to encourage them use more alternative fuel cars, Dr. Uwe Lah with the German Ministry of the Environment answered, "I think America is on a good way. I think we will have a little bit of competition between our countries. Who is the front runner? We are ambitious. America is ambitious, too. We will see."

Sounds like the race is on.

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November 11, 2006

Savannah River National Laboratory, Center for Hydrogen Research, team up to build hydrogen power system

AIKEN, S.C. - The Savannah River National Laboratory and the Center for Hydrogen Research are teaming up to build and test a prototype system to demonstrate how hydrogen fuel cells can be effectively used to provide an emergency backup power system for hospitals and other critical facilities.

The partners will combine SRNL’s unique hydrogen storage technology with a fuel cell capable of generating electricity from hydrogen fuel and an electrolyzer to produce hydrogen. These combined elements will make up a regenerative fuel cell system that will provide a rugged, compact, quick-response, reliable emergency power supply for occasions when grid power is temporarily cut off. The resulting prototype will serve as a model for future larger scale systems that would enhance U.S. energy security by providing safe, reliable, and renewable backup power for a variety of critical applications.

CHR, a nonprofit organization that is a subsidiary of the Economic Development Partnership of Aiken and Edgefield Counties, is dedicated to promoting partnerships to build the foundations for a clean, secure, safe energy source of the future. SRNL is the applied research and development laboratory at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site. This project is sponsored by the Department of Energy Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.

"There are many critical facilities, like hospitals, telecommunications centers and manufacturing control rooms, where a consistent, reliable power source is absolutely critical," says SRNL Laboratory Director Dr. G. Todd Wright of Washington Savannah River Company. WSRC, a subsidiary of Washington Group International, operates SRNL for the U.S. Department of Energy. "Power disruptions to these facilities can be disastrous, which is why they have some type of electrical backup system. A hydrogen fuel cell system could replace the high maintenance battery and generator systems in use today, and offer a higher degree of reliability. This project allows SRNL to demonstrate the viability of these systems to enable hospitals, telecommunications systems and others to be confident in their ability to continue providing critical services in an emergency.

"Recent hurricanes in the southeast U.S. have revealed limitations with traditional backup systems that rely on batteries or generators," he adds. "Competition for gasoline and diesel fuel during disasters, along with limited battery life, has made many of these systems unable to meet the demand."

The prototype system will be housed at Aiken County’s new hydrogen laboratory facility located at the Savannah River Research Park. Here, CHR will test and evaluate the regenerative fuel cell system to determine its performance in various simulated and real-world backup power situations.

At the completion of the project, the integrated system will remain at the laboratory facility to be used as part of the CHR’s ongoing educational outreach program, demonstrating the use of hydrogen as a safe and secure source of energy in the future hydrogen economy. "We are excited about embarking on this first collaborative research project between CHR and SRNL," says Fred Humes, Director of the Economic Development Partnership. "Installing this prototype hydrogen fuel cell system at Aiken County’s state-of-the-art facility will enable us to showcase the safe, effective use of hydrogen energy for a wide variety of people, from students and teachers to end users, such as cell phone service providers, to engineers and codes and standards agents. This is the beginning of our future in promoting alliances to bring the power of hydrogen out of the laboratory to the people in the street."

SRNL will characterize and evaluate several promising storage materials and select the best candidate for further development and testing for this application. SRNL will also design and fabricate a prototype hydrogen storage system. "This project takes advantage of the extensive hydrogen research and development that SRNL has been involved in for many years, and fits in great with our other current hydrogen initiatives," says Dr. Ted Motyka, SRNL’s Hydrogen Storage Program Manager, who is leading SRNL’s participation.

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November 1, 2006
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DOE awards $2 million to Clemson hydrogen research

The U.S. Department of Energy will award $2 million to Clemson University to fund hydrogen research and development that may help change the way we power the country.

The money will be used by chemical and biomolecular engineering chairman James Goodwin, in collaboration with the Savannah River National Lab, for research on understanding impurities in the production of hydrogen and oxygen streams and the performance of hydrogen fuel cells. It is part of a $100 million fund for 25 hydrogen projects that support President Bush's Advanced Energy Initiative, which seeks to reduce United States' dependence on foreign sources of energy through new clean energy technologies.

Clemson is one of four universities across the country to receive the competitive award, along with such corporations as 3M and national laboratories, such as Los Alamos National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

"We are pleased to be one of only four universities receiving a competitive award in support of President Bush's Advanced Energy Initiative," said Clemson University Vice President for Research and Economic Development Chris Przirembel. "The collaboration with Savannah River National Laboratory exemplifies the growing partnerships fostered by the South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance."

"Clearly, the United States is recognizing the need to develop alternative sources of energy, and South Carolina will be on the forefront of this research," said U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who has been an advocate of hydrogen fuel development. "I'm pleased that these funds will further Clemson's exploration into hydrogen research."

U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis, member of the research subcommittee of the House Science Committee, also has been a vocal champion for the hydrogen economy and the role CU-ICAR might play in pursuing U.S. energy independence.

The Clemson research focuses on filtering out impurities in hydrogen and oxygen streams to boost the performance of fuel cells. Fuel cells are electrochemical energy conversion devices that produce electricity when hydrogen and oxygen are combined to produce water. They can be used to power vehicles with up to three times the efficiency of traditional internal combustion technologies. Fuel cells are more expensive, however, and have difficulty maintaining performance over the full useful life of the system.

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