Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced that as part of an interagency partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to strengthen American 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. The projects are being conducted under the Memorandum of Understanding (PDF - 328kb) signed between the two Departments in July 2010.

These projects will accelerate the deployment of this important clean electricity technology at DOD facilities and provide valuable 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, and as costs continue to come down, fuel cells will become increasingly competitive in the commercial marketplace.

"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," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "Projects like these fuel cell systems will help reduce fossil fuel use and improve energy reliability at military installations across the country."

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, 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

America's military pays a high price in terms of added costs, risk of life, and lost operational flexibility to deliver fuel supplies and power to combat forces.  Reducing or replacing fossil fuels with clean energy technologies like fuel cells can help address these vulnerabilities and improve energy security at military facilities across the U.S. and ultimately across the globe.

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

The primary challenge facing currently available fuel cells is the higher first cost for the units, compared to the conventional technologies they replace.  Targeted fuel cell demonstrations, like the backup power systems that will be installed under the DOE-DOD partnership, may increase the scale of deployment and help improve the economics of the technology, which could lead to more widespread adoption and use.

The eight DOD installations were chosen based on responses from a joint DOD-DOE project proposal request. LOGANEnergy of Sandy Springs, Georgia will manage the project, using fuel cells from four manufacturers: ReliOn, Inc. of Spokane, Washington; Altergy Systems of Folsom, California; Idatech, LLC of Bend, Oregon; and Hydrogenics Corporation of Ontario, Canada.

The $6.6 million project is a joint effort by DOD's U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. DOD will manage the project and DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will collect performance data for the first two years of this five-year demonstration.  The NREL data will be available to fuel cell developers and commercial and government leaders interested in adopting this technology.

The interagency agreement covers a number of clean energy topic areas, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, alternative fuels, efficient transportation technologies and fueling infrastructure, as well as smart grid and energy storage technologies.  By working together, DOE and DOD can help promote scientific and technological innovation and accelerate the deployment of cutting-edge energy technologies that will strengthen American energy security and create new jobs for U.S. workers.

DOE's Fuel Cell Technologies Program has funded research and development of catalysts, membranes, and other fuel cell components that has resulted in more than 250 patents and 30 commercially available technologies, many of which are in the military backup power systems announced today.  More information is available on DOE's Fuel Cell Technologies Program webpage.

Media contact(s):

(202) 586-4940