Renewable Energy On Display at Hydrogen Conference

From test driving and fueling up the new BMW Hydrogen 7 — a 260-hp 12-cylinder engine that accelerates from zero to 62 mph in 9.5 seconds — to learning about a hydrogen to wind to ammonia pilot project in Minnesota, the National Hydrogen Association (NHA) Annual Hydrogen Conference 2007 to be held in San Antonio March 19-22 will offer attendees the chance to experience the latest advancements in hydrogen and fuel cell technology.

Among the exhibitors scheduled to showcase their products and projects during the event are a number of U.S. and international renewable energy companies. According to Dr. Ines Freesen, managing director of Freesen & Partner GmbH in Germany, the consulting and event management firm that has been overseeing details for the Hydrogen Expo US 2007, more than half of the exhibitors are affiliated with renewables in one form or another. “Over 50% of the more than 90 Hydrogen Expo US 2007 exhibitors offer products and solutions for renewable energy supply. And I would expect that when asked an even larger number of the exhibitors would call themselves renewable energy companies. And they are right. If you for example look at BMW’s approach to hydrogen-fueled vehicles, you find that SOLAR hydrogen is the fuel of their choice for their Hydrogen 7 car,” said Dr. Freesen. There will also be a special Hydrogen-from-Renewables Pavilion, along with the more traditional technologies affiliated with the hydrogen sector, featured at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. “While Hydrogen Expo US has always been a forum for renewable energies, this year for the first time the exhibition features a Hydrogen-from-Renewables Pavilion with four exhibitors: NanoLogix, Powertech Labs, ecotality and Sandia National Laboratories. We expect this pavilion to grow in future years. Additionally, there are exhibitors such as Ballard, Proton Power Systems or Stewart Warner South Wind, all ‘typical’ renewable energy companies that exhibit individually,” noted Dr. Freesen. The largest hydrogen conference in the U.S., and the longest running annual hydrogen conference in the world, more than 1,500 business professionals are expected to attend the Conference and Expo, which will include a “Ride & Drive” that offers attendees the opportunity to get behind the steering wheel and test-drive one of the hydrogen-fueled vehicles from exhibitors such as BMW, DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, Honda and Toyota. In fact, on Wednesday, March 21 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. the public is invited to view the exhibits and test drive the hydrogen vehicles. In addition to hydrogen advancements in the automotive industry, a number of conference sessions and speakers will be on hand to address how hydrogen and renewable energy technologies can work hand in hand and create a win-win situation for everyone. “The conference is a good way for renewable energy companies to connect with hydrogen companies and vice versa,” said Jeff Serfass, president of the NHA. One example of a successful hydrogen and renewable energy partnership will be featured in a session on Thursday, March 20, that highlights the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center’s $3.75 million wind to hydrogen to ammonia pilot facility. In addition to providing a valuable product for farmers, locally owned wind to hydrogen to anhydrous ammonia facilities may lead to grassroots development of hydrogen fueling stations and increased deployment of hydrogen fueled vehicles. “Renewable energy is environmentally one of the best ways to produce hydrogen. Secondly, renewable forms like wind and solar can use hydrogen as a way to store energy from those resources when it’s produced off a utility peak, and can be used to produce electrons on peak. Third, hydrogen is a way of transporting renewable energy from a central wind field or a central solar facility as an alternative to transporting electrons on transmission lines. This has become particularly of interest in areas where there are transmission constraints that limit the ability to ‘wheel’ wind energy,” said Serfass. Other renewable energy based sessions include Hydrogen Production from Renewables; Redesign and Reconstruction of an Existing Stand-Alone Solar Hydrogen System; as well as Implementation and Control of Electrolysers in Combination with Wind and Zero-Carbon Power Plant. In all, at least 11 speakers will be speaking directly on topics relevant to the renewables community during the conference. “In my view, a hydrogen-based economy only makes sense if, after an initial phase of transition which is necessary to refine the technology and make it economically viable, the fuel is produced from a mix of renewables, the type depending on place and availability of the ‘feedstock’. At the same time, I believe that hydrogen is the single best means to store renewable energies such as wind and solar, both of which have peak and off times,” said Dr. Freesen. “Hydrogen also offers great potential to utilize biomass and even waste for zero-emission power and vehicle fuel production.”
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