FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Fort Jackson has taken a major step in its efforts to embrace "green" technology with the installation of 10 hydrogen fuel cells, which will serve as a back-up power source for three on-post facilities.

The collaborative project, which involves the South Carolina Department of Energy, the Army Corps of Engineers and the South Carolina Research Authority, among other agencies, is the first of its kind in the state. Roswell, Ga. based LOGANEnergy Corp. was contracted to install the fuel cells.

"This will be the first federal agency-to-federal agency project where a state entity has provided significant funding," said Russel C. Keller, SCRA senior director of alternative energy programs. "The 2006 South Carolina Industry Partnership Act mandates creating a 'target program of excellence' in hydrogen and fuel cell technology within the Midlands of South Carolina, and permits SCRA to raise up to $6 million annually to support this and other 'knowledge economy' program initiatives consistent with its state mandate."

The fuel cells will replace uninterruptible power supply, or UPS, systems as primary back-up power at the Directorate of Information Management, the Directorate of Emergency Services and the Energy Management Control Center.

Georges Dib, chief of the Directorate of Public Works' Operation and Maintenance Division, said the new technology will not only be more environmentally sound, but will also require less maintenance than the old UPS system.

"Historically, what happened ... when the power goes out, is the (UPS) battery would carry the load until the power comes back on," he said. "The fuel cells will do the job of what that UPS battery did."

Power outages for the year total only about two hours, said Dib, but in order for a UPS battery to be prepared to take over during an outage, it must constantly be charged.

"There is a lot of energy lost because you have a battery waiting for the power to go out (that) you have to charge continuously for 24 hours. We're charging the battery 24/7 throughout the year," Dib said.

Jesus RosaVelez, DOIM director, said the technology will greatly improve his organization's ability to support the mission. DOIM will be receiving six of the 10 fuel cell systems.

"The fuel cell technology will provide critical backup power supporting our information technology infrastructure," he said. "This improves overall reliability, reduced emissions and lower lifecycle costs."

The technology is also an upgrade from the UPS system, he said, which was outdated.

"Our current diesel generators are way past their lifecycles. By today's standards, they are inefficient, noisy and require frequent maintenance," he said. "Besides being environmentally efficient, from our perspective, the fuel cells are more cosmetically appealing - the older units are an eyesore - and they are generally quiet."

Each fuel cell will have six hydrogen bottles that last for 12 hours. In addition, most of the units will be connected to an uninterruptible power supply, which stores electricity from a primary source, so that the fuel cell will be able to last longer during emergencies, Dib said.

The fuel level of the cells will be monitored via computer, which also alerts controllers to any necessary maintenance.

Because hydrogen is a byproduct that can be easily captured as waste from various commercial plants, the catalyst of the fuel cell energy is free, with no wasted energy.

There are also no emissions from the fuel cell-generated electricity.

The $500,000 project was funded by the DOE, Army Corps of Engineers, Advanced Technology Institute and the South Carolina Research Authority. During the first 18 months, the DOE controls the project and will monitor the fuel cells' use for research purposes. The department will train Fort Jackson personnel in fuel cell maintenance during that timeframe, Keller said.

"The fuel cell systems will be operated at least monthly to gather performance and reliability information. DPW staff at Fort Jackson will participate in maintaining these systems," he said. "At the end of the period of performance, the fort will be capable of assuming full operational and maintenance responsibility for the installed systems."

Scott Nahrwold, deputy garrison commander, said the use of this alternative energy source is good for Fort Jackson and the surrounding community.

"This project demonstrates the willingness and enthusiasm among agencies of the federal government, the city of Columbia and the state of South Carolina to pursue the promise of alternative energy," he said. "The fuel cells will provide a level of flexibility and convenience that goes beyond our current, conventional capabilities."

He added, "We are very pleased to be able to participate in this cooperative venture, especially since there has been no cost to the installation. We look forward to providing useful research data to the sponsors of this initiative and are proud of our small role in contributing to the collective effort that may one day make this technology readily available at the national level."