Educational Project Explores Renewable Hydrogen Cycle

A constant source of energy is necessary to keep any institution running, and the Chewonki Foundation of Wiscasset is going to use a new source of power to make the electricity they use. They have teamed up with the Hydrogen Energy Center of Portland to create the Chewonki Renewable Hydrogen Project, an educational demonstration project of a renewable, hydrogen energy system that hints at what may become in tomorrow’s hydrogen energy economy.

Wiscasset, Maine – June 23, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] A centerpiece of the US$250,000 project is the design, installation, and operation of a hydrogen energy system fueled by solar energy. A photovoltaic (PV) system will be installed on the roof of Chewonki’s Center for Environmental Education, a nonprofit educational institution, to help turn water into hydrogen as a fuel source for the foundation to use. Renewably generated electricity from the PV system will power an electrolyzer to cleanly generate hydrogen which will then be stored for later use. Once needed, the stored hydrogen will be fed into fuel cells to create backup electricity for Chewonki’s 12,000-square-foot Center for Environmental Education. Both the electrolyzer and the fuel cell units have been ordered and are on their way to the facility. This demonstration system and an accompanying hydrogen education program is scheduled for completion in the winter of 2004. “The purchase (of the electrolyzer unit and fuel cells) represents a strong, innovative idea moving toward reality,” Peter Arnold said. Arnold is the project director for the hydrogen project and coordinator of all Chewonki renewable energy projects, including its biodiesel program. The system will create hydrogen from water by electrolysis, releasing oxygen into the air as a byproduct. The electrolysis will be powered by the PV panels on the roof of the Chewonki facility, and green power purchased from Maine Renewable Energy. Hydrogen will be stored until backup power is needed. If the regular power supply is interrupted, the fuel cells will create electricity from the hydrogen to provide up to four days of backup power for the Center. Water is the main source to get hydrogen from. An electric current run through water will release the oxygen and leave pure hydrogen, which is stored in fuel cells for later use. Systems for the hydrogen project will include the Hydrofiller 15 electrolyzer, supplied by Avalence Connecticut. The Hydrofiller 15 produces high-pressure hydrogen without the need for a compressor. Three Independence 1000 fuel cell units were ordered from ReliOn, of Washington. Each unit can make one kW of electricity, and there are six 200 W cartridges in each unit. This design minimizes the impact of system failures by making the operation of each cartridge independent of the others so the fuel cell would always provide backup power even if one cartridge failed. “The hydrogen demonstration project here, along with the education programs, the site displays and the outreach tours, constitute work that reverberates far beyond the immediate confines of coastal Maine. What you are doing is contributing to an invaluable storehouse of information so that when the world finally calls for truly sweeping changes, your efforts will help us know what really works and what does not,” Journalist Ross Gelbspan said in his keynote address at Chewonki’s sixth annual Sustainable Energy Conference. Persons or organizations wishing to contribute to the Chewonki Renewable Hydrogen Project are encouraged to contact Peter Arnold at the Chewonki Foundation or Rick Smith at the Hydrogen Center.

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