WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that as part of an interagency partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to strengthen energy security and develop new clean energy technologies, DOD will be installing and operating 18 fuel cell backup power systems at eight military installations across the country. The Departments will test how the fuel cells perform in real world operations, identify any technical improvements manufacturers could make to enhance performance, and highlight the benefits of fuel cells for emergency backup power applications.

DOE said these projects will accelerate the deployment of this technology at DOD facilities and provide data that will help identify future research areas for fuel cells. Continued R&D efforts will enable further reductions in the costs of fuel cells, said DOE, and as costs continue to come down, fuel cells will become increasingly competitive in the commercial marketplace.

Over the last decade, DOE has invested in research and development projects to advance key fuel cell components such as catalysts and membranes at several companies including 3M, Dupont, Gore, Johnson Matthey, and BASF. This research has helped reduce the costs of fuel cells by up to 80 percent since 2002, said DOE, and many of these innovations are now being used in the fuel cell units being deployed by DOD.

The following eight military installations will be receiving emergency fuel cell backup power units:

• Fort Bragg, North Carolina

• Fort Hood, Texas

• The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York

• Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland

• Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey

• Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Base, Colorado

• U.S. Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center 29 Palms, California

• The Ohio National Guard, Columbus, Ohio

Compared with diesel generators, which are often used for backup power, fuel cells use no petroleum, are quieter, and produce fewer pollutants and emissions, said DOE. Fuel cells also typically require less maintenance than either generators or batteries, and can be monitored remotely to reduce maintenance time.

Publication date: 08/08/2011