Bioenergy, Solar

Fuel Cell, PV Encounters Florida Fauna

Sunlight and water are abundant energy sources for the Wildlife Encounter Pavilion at the Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park in Florida. So Progress Energy Florida was contracted to construct a sustainable hydrogen generator and fuel cell for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which operates the park.

DEP and Progress Energy are jointly funding the project, and Toronto-based Hydrogenics will provide the hydrogen generation system. The fully integrated fuel cell and 5-kW photovoltaic (PV) solar array will provide a portion of the electricity used by the park’s encounter facility. At Homosassa Springs, the PV array will power the Stuart Energy electrolyzer, which will split water into its gaseous components, hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen gas formed during the electrolysis will be stored for later use in the fuel cell. “We are proud to play an integral role in such a remarkable project,” said Vincent Dolan, vice president of Regulatory and Corporate Relations for Progress Energy. “Hydrogen gas holds the potential to be the clean and renewable fuel of the future.” There are several reasons why the energy industry is looking at hydrogen as a “green” fuel source for the future. Hydrogen is abundant and can be extracted from various sources including natural gas, biomass, and, in the case of the Homosassa system, from water. Despite the abundance of hydrogen, a gas suitable for use as a fuel must be extracted from other substances, such as water or fossil fuels. The challenge is developing an economical way to extract hydrogen to justify replacing existing fuels, according to Progress Energy. John Masiello, Progress Energy’s manager of alternative energy strategies said, “Right now, the electricity we put into capturing hydrogen is greater than the electricity we gain from using hydrogen. Obviously that isn’t practical. That’s why projects like this one are so important. We do them to advance the science – so that somehow, someday, we will find a way to extract hydrogen efficiently and affordably.” The project at Homosassa Springs will be completed in stages. The 5- kilowatt PV array was recently installed and the hydrogen generator and fuel cell will be operational by 2nd Quarter 2005.