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Fuel Cells Shine a Light on the Last Endeavour Space Shuttle Launch

May 16, 2011 - 9:35am


Fuel cell technology will help light the way as the Space Shuttle Endeavor launches off into space for the final time.

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is one of several test sites for a new hydrogen fuel cell-powered mobile light tower that has the potential to drastically reduce dependence on diesel-fueled mobile lighting across the United States. NASA’s first testing of the product coincides with today’s launch of the Endeavour -- the mobile tower will supply additional lighting during the launch.

Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia) sponsored by the Energy Department, is participating in a joint effort to launch this clean technology alternative to diesel-powered equipment. Participants include Multiquip, Luxim, Lumenworks and Ovonic Hydrogen Solutions; as well as Altergy Systems -- the manufacturer of the 5 kW hydrogen fuel cell system that provides power to the mobile light stand.  

The collaboration targets three customer areas at this time -- entertainment, transportation and airports -- to test these light towers in real-world operating environments. In addition to the Kennedy Space Center, other customers who are providing test sites include the San Francisco International Airport and the California Department of Transportation. The technology already has made a debut in the entertainment industry -- lighting up red carpet events for the 2011 Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards ceremonies in Los Angeles, in addition to the 2010 Academy Awards ceremony and other events. 

The diesel mobile light towers used today are noisy and release particulates, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air. Researchers at Sandia estimate that replacing a single one of these lights with a hydrogen fuel cell mobile light tower will offset 900 gallons of diesel fuel per year.

A fuel cell-powered mobile lighting system running on hydrogen produced from renewable resources used in lieu of a diesel engine reduces Nox (mono-nitrogen oxides) and particulate matter emissions by nearly 100%. Fuel cell-powered mobile lighting also significantly reduces noise -- achieving near silent operation.

Energy Department-funded research has helped to reduce the cost of fuel cells by 30% since 2008 and 80% since 2002. This has enabled increased widespread adoption and enabled commercial developments for fuel cell applications.

For more information, visit the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology website.