Energy experiment involves Bragg

Staff WriterJuly 20, 2011 

  • Fuel cells typically require less maintenance than diesel generators, use no petroleum and produce fewer pollutants and less noise.

    Fuel cells produce electricity from hydrogen, using electrodes and a catalyst. The catalysts oxidize the hydrogen atoms, sending electrons to one end of the cell.

    The electrons create electricity, which when exposed to oxygen, produce water and heat. They work like batteries. But they don't expire or require recharging.

    Staff writer Nicole Kyle

Green is nothing new to the dress code at Fort Bragg. But it may be to the Army's energy practices there.

Three energy-efficient fuel cells will be installed in Fort Bragg in September as part of a five-year research program between the Defense Department and the Energy Department.

The program, announced Tuesday, is experimental and functional, Joelle Terry, a spokeswoman for the Department of Energy, explained in an email message.

The cells will provide up to 15 kilowatts in emergency electricity. They will be installed in Fort Bragg's Range Support Building and will provide backup power to the equipment there in the event of a power outage.

Data on the performance of the cells will be collected to gauge the viability of the technology and identify future research areas for fuel cells and their applications.

The Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory will collect the data for the first two years of the program. The data will be available to both commercial and governmental leaders and fuel cell producers.

One of eight

Fort Bragg is one of eight military bases that will participate in the program, which will install 18 fuel cell backup power systems nationwide.

The program will help develop new clean-energy technology for the military to limit the vulnerabilities - explosions among them - that result from using fossil fuels both in combat and at home.

The bases were selected by considering factors such as physical location, fueling capability and the availability of equipment that could run on back up power from the fuel cells, Terry said.

The project will cost $6.6 million for all eight facilities combined. The Defense Department, which is managing the project, is providing $3.4 million and $3.2 million is coming from the DOE, Terry said.

Aims for security

This program, which also hopes to reduce the cost of producing fuel cells, is part of the government's larger goal of "energy security."

"The shared vision of the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense for a safe, secure energy future provides us with a strong foundation to work together on specific technologies," Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement. "Projects like these fuel cell systems will help reduce fossil fuel use and improve energy reliability at military installations across the country."

nicole.kyle@newsobserver.com or 919-836-4903

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