‘Hydrogen Highways’ Grab Market Attention

Just as President Bush’s State of the Union statements about hydrogen sparked a flurry of fuel cell buzz last year, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ambitious plans for alternative energy technologies are creating their own buzz in California as companies hope to get part of the action.

Los Angeles, California – April 22, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] Solar Integrated Technologies (SIT), a manufacturer of photovoltaic (PV) solar roofing systems, is one of the most recent companies vying for attention and commercialization of their technologies. At a recent press conference at the University of California, Davis, SIT partnered with Stuart Energy to demonstrate the SES, an end-to-end “clean green” hydrogen station using solar-generated electricity to convert water into hydrogen fuel. The compact SES and PV solar canopy form an ideal platform for cost-effective, zero-emission renewable energy for small business and home use, said SIT. A lightweight, flexible roofing membrane manufactured by SIT partner Sarnafil is embedded with PV solar cells to create a roofing system that harvests the sun’s energy and powers the conversion of water into hydrogen. With this solution, widespread adoption of energy initiatives like “Hydrogen Highways” is a viable reality. According to the “Action Plan for California’s Environment,” the Governor plans to cut air pollution statewide by up to 50 percent by investing in hydrogen fuel development and “Hydrogen Highways.” This initiative would place California at the forefront of alternative fuel adoption in this country by building 200 hydrogen refueling stations along California’s highways by 2007. In building the infrastructure, auto manufacturers and consumers alike will be more encouraged to produce and purchase cleaner, more efficient hydrogen-powered vehicles that are noise-free and produce virtually no air pollutants, releasing only H2O as a byproduct. “We salute Governor Schwarzenegger’s vision in leading California towards a greener, more responsible future,” said Ed Stevenson, chief executive officer of SIT. “It has taken a long time for the climate for renewable energy to change in this country. Today’s event marks an important step forward. With our Governor’s strong example, perhaps financial sources in America will free up the funding needed to help more companies advance the production of green power. At SIT, we’re proving every day that alternative fuels are no longer a wish for the future — they are a reality for the present.” SIT and Stuart were not the only companies vying for some attention. Proton Energy Systems also announced their intention to to provide hydrogen generation and fueling technologies as key infrastructure components for California’s new “Hydrogen Highway” and renewable energy economy. Proton made an announcement at a California Fuel Cell Partnership event where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an Executive Order officially launching the state’s Hydrogen Highway program. “We applaud Governor Schwarzenegger’s sustainable energy vision for California and his desire to join with leading energy providers to ensure this vision becomes a reality,” said Walter W. “Chip” Schroeder, President of Distributed Energy Systems. “As an important participant in America’s hydrogen economy future, our entry into the transportation market is an important growth strategy,” he said. “When hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCV) come to market, we believe that existing energy suppliers will need to supply new forms of automotive fuel.” Schroeder said transportation represents one of the most exciting opportunities for Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) electrolysis technology. Proton is working with several companies, along with the California Fuel Cell Partnership, to supply hydrogen generator ‘gas pumps’ for installation at local service stations. The company also believes automotive manufacturers building introductory and fleet FCVs will be interested in Proton’s fueling technology. Conventional fuel burning releases more than 1,583 million metric tons of pollutants into the atmosphere each year. The adoption of hydrogen fuel, especially if it’s generated using renewable energy, could significantly reduce air pollution and minimize global warming. Estimates suggest that if we continue to burn fossil fuels at the current rate, we will exceed “safe” limits of climate change within just 40 years, according to SIT. Moreover, renewable fuels reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels and, ultimately, serve to strengthen national energy security. Richard Shoen, executive vice president of Building Integrated Photovoltaics for SIT and emeritus faculty member at UCLA, emphasizes that, “While the hydrogen industry continues to strive for a commercially viable fuel cell for vehicles, it has produced an interim solution that is market-ready right now: the internal combustion engine converted to run on clean-burning hydrogen that is safe, affordable and available.”
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