Air Force Looks to Fuel Cells for Savings at Home and Abroad

Robins Air Force Base officially welcomed an alternative fuel technology of ten 5 kW fuel cells that could save the Air Force thousands of dollars in energy costs at an opening attended by base leaders and representatives from Plug Power, Logan Energy, the Army Corps of Engineers Research and Development Center and others.

The alternative fuel sources, which reform propane gas and extract hydrogen to produce electricity, came to the base as part of Robins’ Fuel Cell Micro-grid project, aka the Common Core Power Production (C2P2) program, which was a year-long demonstration-validation program to seek alternative, environmentally sound fuel sources for troops in deployed locations, as well as backup power sources for stateside bases. “Over the next year, [the fuel cells] will be supplying 275,000 kilowatt hours of electricity to Robins Air Force Base,” said Roy Case, senior project engineer with the 542nd Combat Sustainment Wing’s Advanced Power Technology Office. “The produced electricity will go into Robins’ power grid and save on the use of fossil fuel. …This may be something we could use in BEAR (basic expeditionary airfield resources) base locations.” In addition to using propane as an alternative energy source, the fuel cells can also reform jet fuel, natural gas and any fuel source that contains hydrogen, even water, into power sources — a method that may prove to be more convenient for service members already carrying jet fuel to power the mission, explained Mike Mead, Advanced Power Technology Office (APTO) chief at the base. “It is critical to our mission to explore and compare fuel cell systems with our existing power sources to remain efficient, cost effective and environmentally focused,” Mead said. “The more than $900,000 congressionally funded project may be used at other military bases and in tent cities in deployed locations, if proven successful in its test location.” At the end of the year-long program, the APTO will receive a final report on the unit data retrieved by Plug Power and the fuel cell systems will be returned to the company for destructive testing and autopsy to determine which of the 10 configurations worked best. “This is a great opportunity for the U.S. military to partner with Plug Power to evaluate a new product before the commercial product release. This demonstration will assist the Advanced Power Technology Office in increasing the war fighters’ capabilities, support the Air Force environmental policy and reduce the dependency on foreign oil sources,” said Robert David, APTO subject matter expert engineer. Excerpted from an article by Holly L. Birchfield / 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs. A link to the full release is supplied below.
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