Companies Involved In The Dozens Of Fuel Cell Projects Currently Underway

by: Mitch Vine

A new report from government logistics consulting firm LMI has identified dozens of fuel cell projects underway within the US Department of Defence (DoD).

The report looked at 11 potential fuel cell applications for DoD but focused on 4 of those. LMI concluded that DoD should more proactively evaluate and acquire fuel cell systems for three of the applications:

1. Distributed power generation - Navy, Marine Corps, and Army installations are host sites for fuel cell systems that provide base load power, while also using the fuel cell’s waste heat

2. Backup power - Fuel cell systems for backup power have been deployed at Fort Jackson, SC. During 2011, fuel cells will be installed at Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base, CA, and the Marine Corps Logistics Base, Barstow, CA. The Army’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) and AFRL are funding and managing fuel cell backup power demonstrations that will be operational at 10 other DoD sites in 2011

3. Unmanned vehicles - Elements of the Air Force, Army, and Navy are managing research, development, and demonstration projects leading to fuel cell-powered unmanned vehicles. Projects include the Air Force’s Puma unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the Army’s Talon unmanned ground vehicle (UGV), and the Navy’s Ion Tiger UAV. The Navy is supporting extensive work on unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs)

LMI also identified that DoD should continue to monitor the costs and benefits of introducing fuel cell systems in non-tactical material handling equipment. - DLA is funding demonstrations of fuel cell-powered forklifts at four DoD installations. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) manages demonstration and validation of fuel cells for powering ground support equipment such as aircraft tow vehicles and flight line maintenance vehicles.

The Following are exerpts from the report:

Saving electricity costs has huge potential for DoD. DoD paid about $4 billion for facilities energy in 2009, and electricity accounted for 64 percent of the energy consumption. LMI points out the DoD used about five times the amount of electricity consumed by all customers in the state of Vermont.

Recommendations in the Report:

  • Monitor and evaluate government and private-sector fuel cell projects.
  • Independently and in conjunction with other federal agencies, particularly the Department of Energy, continue support for research, development, and demonstration of fuel cells and the fuels required for their operation.
  • Continue defining and pursuing fuel cell partnership initiatives with the Department of Energy.
  • Develop and implement procurement models that enable increased visibility for fuel cell options in competitive solicitations; more efficient acquisition of fuel cell systems; and realization of the potential benefits of third-party financing of fuel cell systems.
  • Require that fuel cell systems be considered for meeting electric power, heating, and cooling demands whenever any new facilities and major renovations are planned and designed; and that respondents to solicitations for locally produced power consider fuel cell systems.
  • Require that fuel cell systems be considered during planning and designing backup power capability for a DoD site; and that respondents to solicitations for backup power consider fuel cell systems.
  • Plan and implement an initiative to address the limitations of current power purchase models with respect to acquiring emerging technologies, including fuel cells.
  • Invite, but not require, bidders for material handling equipment to consider fuel cell power.
  • Increase awareness of unmanned vehicle designers, providers, and operators about fuel cell systems as an option for providing power.

Distributed stationary power – DoD Fuel Cell Activities

During the mid 1990’s phosphoric acid fuel cell systems, built by UTC Power (NYSE:UTX), were installed and operated at 30 military installations under a DoD demonstration program.

A Fuelcell Energy (NASDAQ:FCEL) 300kW power plant is being installed for demonstration at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in California.

Three Fuelcell Energy 250kW fuel cells have been providing power and heat since 2007/08 at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, CA.

During 2011 a FuelCell Energy DFC300 is being relocated to the Army’s Camp Parks Reserve Forces Training Area near Dublin, CA

LOGAN Energy will purchase, install, and operate two DFC300 plants at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, CT. These units will provide base load electricity, with byproduct heat being used to preheat boiler water.

A DFC300 power plant is installed at the Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, HI. This unit, which uses propane fuel transported to the site, is expected to resume full operation in mid-2011.

Material Handling & Ground Support Equipment – Activities

DLA Distribution Susquehanna, PA. Forty fuel cell forklifts commenced operation in February 2009; 20 existing forklifts were retrofitted and 20 new fuel cell forklifts were acquired. East Penn/Nuvera and Plug Power (NASDAQ:PLUG) each provided fuel cells or 20 forklifts. Liquid hydrogen fuel is supplied by Air Products; two indoor hydrogen dispensing systems are used. Operational and cost data have been collected and analyzed. In December 2010, an additional 15 Nuvera PowerEdge fuel cell units were delivered to DLA Distribution Susquehanna and installed in forklifts; these were funded by DOE.

DLA Distribution Warner Robins, GA. Twenty new forklifts with

Hydrogenics (NASDAQ:HYGS) fuel cells began operation in January 2010. During its first year of operation, this project demonstrated small-scale hydrogen production by steam reforming of natural gas. Hydrogen is delivered by mobile refuelers to dispensing locations. Hydrogen production and delivery is performed by Air Products (NYSE:APD).

DLA Distribution San Joaquin, CA. Twenty new fuel cell forklifts will replace 20 propane forklifts. Hydrogen will be produced on site by water electrolysis.The project is expected to be operational in 2011. Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA. Nineteen new forklifts are being fitted with Plug Power fuel cells; the hydrogen fuel system, involving production from the installation’s wastewater treatment plant digester gas, is a joint product of the Gas Technology Institute and Air Products. The fuel cell forklifts are expected to begin operation in 2011.

During 2 years through December 2010, the 55 fuel cell forklifts at Susquehanna and the 20 at Warner Robins were collectively operated for about 150,000 hours. More than 31,000 refuelings have been safely conducted at the two sites, with more than 18,000 kilograms of hydrogen dispensed. During 2011, DLA considered a transition from the original R&D pilot project to a longer term project at Susquehanna. A decision was made to not continue the use of fuel cell forklifts at Susquehanna and Warner Robins after completing the pilot demonstrations.

Extended-range fuel cell utility vehicles are also being demonstrated with DLA support. The purpose is to assess alternative methods for hydrogen storage. A Toro Workman fuel cell vehicle designed by ATK is being operated at Susquehanna. A Columbia ParCar vehicle, adapted for fuel cells by the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE), is being demonstrated at Warner Robins. ATK and CTE have also been awarded contracts to design yard tractors powered by fuel cells.

The Air Force Advanced Power Technology Office (APTO) supported demonstrations of fuel cell MHE/GSE. APTO responsibilities have been assumed by the AFRL. The AFRL is partnering with the Hawaii Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies to demonstrate and validate fuel-efficient technologies, including fuel cells for powering Air Force ground vehicle fleets and support equipment. Included among test and evaluation projects at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam are hybrid aircraft tow vehicle powered by a 65 kW Hydrogenics fuel cell and a flight line maintenance support vehicle with a 12 kW Hydrogenics fuel cell auxiliary power unit. A diesel floodlight set (light cart) at Hickam was modified to use a fuel cell with metal hydride storage technology; the cart is undergoing a 1-year evaluation. Two projects currently under development are a fuel cell powered R-12 refueler and a fuel cell hybrid flight line sweeper.

With funding from the Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center ((TARDEC)), 41 fuel cell class 3 forklifts were demonstrated at Sysco Corporation (NYSE:SYY) distribution centers in Michigan. Forklifts manufactured by the Raymond Corp. were operated at Sysco’s Grand Rapids, MI, facility, and machines from Crown Equipment were used for operations at Canton, MI.

Backup Power – DoD Activities

In FY08, federal interagency agreements helped deploy fuel cells for backup power at multiple locations. The Army’s CERL, DOE, and South Carolina’s Advanced Technology Institute partnered to deploy 10 Plug Power fuel cell backup power units for three mission-critical functions at Fort Jackson: the telecommunications center, an energy monitoring and control facility, and an emergency services center. The fuel cells were installed for an 18-month demonstration period starting in September 2009. The project, which was designed to advance the goals of the DOE “market transformation” initiative, included monitoring and assessing the performance, durability, and life-cycle costs of commercially available 5 and 15 kW fuel cells. Fuel cells will provide backup power for emergency response operations at Los Alamitos using hydrogen produced on site, and at MCLB Barstow using bottled hydrogen.

The backup power fuel cells at Fort Jackson have met expectations. Officials report complete satisfaction with their performance and reliability, particularly in response to three power outages. No power interruptions have occurred for any of the critical loads backed up with these systems. During 2008, Plug Power fuel cells were installed at New Mexico National Guard sites. A total of 20 GenCore units were tested and operated at Santa Fe and Rio Rancho. Funding came from the Army TARDEC, with technical support from CERL. The load was successfully carried by fuel cells during a May 2008 utility grid outage at the aviation support facility.

In November 2009, CERL issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) seeking demonstrations of fuel cell systems for backup power. The BAA’s core requirement was a turn-key package for the installation, operation, maintenance, monitoring, and removal and site restoration of domestically produced PEM fuel cells as backup power supplies. The objectives included determining the feasibility of fuel cells in backup power applications and building a database of operational performance. Fuel cell backup power units will be deployed at nine federal installations—eight DoD and one NASA. A total of 217 kW will be provided for meeting mission-critical power demands at 18 separate buildings.

The CERL acquisition was awarded to LOGAN Energy, which will manage the project. Fuel cell backup power systems from four manufacturers (ReliOn, Inc., Altergy Systems, IdaTech, and Hydrogenics) will be installed starting in July 2011 and are expected to operate for 5 years under the demonstration program. Bottled hydrogen will be used at all but one site. Methanol will be reformed to provide the hydrogen at Twentynine Palms. DOE will fund the majority of the $2.5 million cost-shared effort, and CERL will manage the project. Performance data for the first 2 years will be collected, analyzed, and disseminated by NREL. To facilitate an exchange of information, fuel cell users groups will be hosted by TARDEC.

The APTO funded an initiative to install fuel cells for backup power at critical Hawaii Air National Guard sites. This project is now managed by the AFRL. The objective is to demonstrate the viability of fuel cells as replacements for diesel generators. The Guard is assessing which facilities will participate in this evaluation and the duration of the backup power requirement. With ARRA funds, a total of 20 6 kW GenSys PEM fuel cell systems will be installed and operated by Plug Power at Fort Irwin, CA, and Warner Robins AFB, GA. These units will have quick start capability with hydrogen, and are designed to operate continuously for extended periods using liquid propane gas (NYSE:LPG). Project partners include CERL, which is helping to coordinate and identify loads to be supported with fuel cells. The systems will be installed in 2011. The total project cost is $5.4 million, including $2.7 million from DOE.

In late 2009, IdaTech’s German OEM partner, b+w Electronic Systems, delivered 22 ElectraGen fuel cell systems to the U.S. Army in support of the Infrastructure Modernization program. The program supports the upgrade and modernization of enterprise enabled voice and data networks worldwide. Ten ElectraGen systems were installed in Grafenwoehr, Germany, and 12 systems have been deployed to other U.S. military sites throughout Germany.

Full details from the report can be found here:

Disclosure: I am long PLUG.