Step Toward Hydrogen Infrastructure

A step toward developing infrastructure to enable the United States to progress to a hydrogen economy was taken recently in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Las Vegas, Nevada – November 19, 2002 [SolarAccess.com] The world’s first hydrogen energy station featuring the co-production of hydrogen fuel and electric power was formally dedicated and is operational, generating hydrogen on-site that is utilized both to fuel vehicles and produce electricity. The project, a public-private partnership between the United States Department of Energy (DOE), the City of Las Vegas, Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. and Plug Power, Inc. is intended to serve as a commercial demonstration of hydrogen as a safe and clean energy alternative. “This station is helping to usher in a new era of sustainable fuel production in this country and the world,” said David Garman, DOE’s Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “While there are yet technological barriers to cross, this refueling station demonstrates hydrogen’s promise as a clean energy alternative to fuel vehicles and to produce power.” Hydrogen is the energy carrier for both the fueling of vehicles and for generating electrical energy. The Energy Station’s hydrogen generator produces hydrogen through the reforming, or processing and purification of natural gas. This hydrogen is supplied to both a hydrogen product compression unit and the PEM (proton exchange membrane) fuel cell. The product compression unit compresses the hydrogen for gaseous storage to be used on demand for vehicle fueling. The energy station is capable of dispensing fuel for both hydrogen vehicles and blended CNG/H2 (compressed natural gas/hydrogen) vehicles from separate dispensers. The PEM fuel cell system uses a hydrogen feedstock to combine hydrogen with atmospheric oxygen for the generation of electrical power. The electrical output from the 50 kW fuel cell is supplied to the Las Vegas electrical grid system for general consumer use. This electricity provides enough power on a daily basis for about 30 homes. “The integration of hydrogen generation and power generation at this station represents a clear step toward a future where these elements will become increasingly common,” said Roger Saillant, Plug Power’s President and CEO. “Fuel cells fit very well into this setting, illustrating the environmental benefits of clean power generation utilizing hydrogen.” The US$10.8 million, five-year demonstration project included the base research and development of new technology required for the manufacturing and installation of the physical equipment at the Energy Station. This state-of- the-art equipment included the development of a small-scale hydrogen generator and the further development of a stationary fuel cell power system. The program also included the design, construction and operation of the hydrogen facility. These costs were split equally under a cooperative agreement between Air Products and DOE. The Air Products team, which included Plug Power, a New York-based stationary fuel cell manufacturer, and City of Las Vegas, was responsible for the research, development, design, construction and operation of the hydrogen facility.

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