Army explores alternative energy with hydrogen fuel cells

By Mr. Dan Lafontaine (RDECOM)November 17, 2011

Army explores alternative energy with hydrogen fuel cell
Officials cut the ribbon Nov. 16 to unveil Aberdeen Proving Ground's hydrogen fuel cells at the Building Operations Control Center (Building 325). From left, Rick Farmer, deputy program manager with the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficie... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- The U.S. Army is investing in highly efficient energy sources to reduce its fossil fuel usage, officials said Nov. 16 as APG unveiled hydrogen fuel cells.

Maj. Gen. Nick Justice, APG senior installation commander, praised the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their efforts to preserve the local environment by implementing alternative energy.

"We are excited to get technology here that is going to make us even more green than Army green," Justice said.

About 50 people gathered at the Building Operations Control Center (Building 325) for the ribbon-cutting ceremony that marked the installation of the first fuel cells as part of a partnership between DOE and the Department of Defense.

APG's fuel cells are electro-chemical devices that use hydrogen as a fuel to produce backup electricity without having to combust the fuel. Twenty-four buildings across nine federal government sites will receive fuel cells within six months.

Rick Farmer, deputy program manager with DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, said projects such as hydrogen fuel cells help to improve America's environment and economy.

"By addressing its own energy security needs, DoD can help stimulate the market for new, clean energy products," Farmer said. "Working together, we can help to build a new, clean energy future that will strengthen our national security, create thousands of new jobs and improve U.S. economic competitiveness and the environment."

Fuel-cell technology is a rapidly growing field, Farmer said. The federal government's research funding has reduced the cost of fuel-cell electricity to help make it commercially viable.

"Over the last year, we have seen about 50 percent growth in the megawatts of fuel cell power shipped in the United States," Farmer said. "DOE-funded projects have reduced the projected high-volume cost of fuel cells to $49 per kilowatt, an 80 percent reduction since 2002 and over 30 percent in the last two years.

"Together with our partners, DOE has co-funded about 600 fuel-cell lift trucks. Based on the results of these demonstrations, industry has placed orders for about five times that amount with no DOE funding."

Fuel cells provide power for stationary power systems, light-duty vehicles, portable electronics, forklifts and portable lighting equipment, Farmer said.

Justice said APG has a robust history of technical innovation and is excited to help foster alternative energy sources for the military.

"This is a historic piece of property," Justice said. "This place has been a center for technology and science for 90 years."

Justice described APG's history of technical achievements that include development of the Jeep quarter-ton utility vehicle in 1943; research on the ENIAC, the world's first electronic computer in 1947; and testing of the Lunar Roving Vehicle in 1966.

Environmentally friendly power sources such as fuel cells complement the region well, Justice said. The Army is committed to preserving APG's bald eagle population and the Chesapeake Bay.

"We're doing our fair share to keep this a pristine and beautiful spot. The Gunpowder and Bush rivers are the two cleanest tributaries into the upper Chesapeake Bay," Justice said. "We have the largest single population of our national symbol, the bald eagle, nesting and breeding here.

"This year alone we had 49 fledglings born. We are the birthplace of the symbol of our nation on the East Coast of the United States."

Related Links:

U.S. Department of Energy

Aberdeen Proving Ground

RDECOM on Facebook

RDECOM on Flickr

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers