California, Florida Embrace Hydrogen Projects

It’s been a big week for hydrogen lately as two new fueling stations on separate sides of the U.S. were announced and the state of Florida kicked off a new statewide commitment to pursue hydrogen developments.

Florida made their bid to be on the forefront of hydrogen energy technology by announcing the groundbreaking of a hydrogen fueling station designed to run a small fleet of hydrogen-powered shuttle buses. Governor Jeb Bush also outlined a proposal for the Hydrogen Energy Technologies Act, which will spur investment and accelerate the commercialization of hydrogen energy projects in the state. Much like his brother President George W. Bush in the White House, Jeb Bush appears to have a specific interest in hydrogen despite the challenges associated with a move toward a hydrogen infrastructure. With this announcement the Governor said the state is spurring investment in the development and use of “pollution-free” hydrogen technology, but the hydrogen will be provided by ChevronTexaco with no indication it will come from truly pollution free sources like solar and wind power. Currently, the most common and cost effective method for producing hydrogen is a steam reforming process using natural gas. On the other side of the U.S., Assistant Secretary of Energy David Garman joined representatives of ChevronTexaco, Hyundai-Kia and UTC Fuel Cells at the opening of a hydrogen fueling station in Chino, California. The station is a major part of the Department of Energy’s Hydrogen “Learning Demonstration,” which brings together automobile makers and energy companies to test fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen fueling systems in real-world conditions. In the Chino project, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage SUVs, powered by fuel cells manufactured by UTC Fuel Cells, will operate throughout Southern California and refuel at the ChevronTexaco hydrogen station. Of particular importance is the on-site production of hydrogen from natural gas. Natural gas, has an existing distribution infrastructure, which is critical to the eventual transition to the hydrogen economy. This station will also have the future capability to convert other renewable fuel sources, such as ethanol, into hydrogen for refueling fuel cell vehicles. Back on the east coast, Florida’s initial commitment is measured, but a new dose of state funding will ensure continued progress toward new projects. The state became the first customer for Ford’s new V-10, E-450 12-passenger hydrogen shuttle bus last month, ordering eight of the hydrogen vehicles. With a range of up to 150 miles and near-zero emissions, (not including hydrogen production) including carbon dioxide, the Ford hydrogen shuttle bus uses an internal combustion engine designed to run on hydrogen fuel instead of gasoline. The plan to couple hydrogen buses with a nearby refueling station is a collaboration between the State of Florida, Ford, ChevronTexaco Technology Ventures and Progress Energy. Using technology designed and integrated by ChevronTexaco Technology Ventures, the new energy station will provide the foundation for a “hydrogen hub” in Central Florida where hydrogen fleets will be concentrated with a series of fueling stations to demonstrate and accelerate commercialization of the cleaner technology. Located on property owned by Progress Energy, the state’s first hydrogen energy station will provide a test platform for showcasing the safe and cost-effective production, storage and dispensing of hydrogen as a transportation fuel. Energy companies, automakers and petroleum companies worldwideare investing more than $2 billion annually to grow the hydrogen industry and diversify with new, sustainable sources of energy. In terms of the Hydrogen Energy Technologies Act, Florida will set aside $12.9 million to test and demonstrate the cutting-edge technology and provide $2.1 million in new tax incentives. Florida companies will receive temporary corporate tax credits for expenditures and sales tax exemptions on related equipment purchases, making the technology more affordable and prompting increased sales to stimulate investment and job creation. Targeted matching grants will be used to attract corporate investment for select, high value demonstration projects to improve hydrogen and solar energy technologies and infrastructure. The Act will establish the nation’s first one-stop permitting standard for hydrogen fueling infrastructure. Creating a single, uniform permitting standard will reduce costs, ensure consistent safety codes across all jurisdictions and attract capital investment in Florida. Financial incentives will be allotted for hydrogen electricity generation and power storage, and according to the announcement, give utilities greater flexibility to provide emergency back-up power, reduce peak operating costs and protect air quality.

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