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At this year's Daytona 500, four fuel cell generators will power some of the broadcast cameras and spotlights, demonstrating how the technology could help NASCAR save money on fuel costs. This technology was beta-tested during the IMSA Rolex 24 race weekend last month. | Photo courtesy of P.T. Jones, Oak Ridge National Lab.
On Sunday, millions will tune in to watch the thrills and chills of the Daytona 500 -- the first race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. While fans will see some of the most advanced technologies on the track, organizers will also be demonstrating a transformative clean energy technology behind the scenes. The Energy Department, NASCAR and Massachusetts-based Acumentrics have teamed up to test four fuel cell units as replacements for power generators.
From powering the broadcast cameras and spotlights to midway concessions and other race equipment, remote power generators are essential to NASCAR races. But power generators are noisy and have inefficient engines. Some need to be refueled every 8-12 hours. And -- possibly power generators’ biggest draw back -- they have high greenhouse gas emissions.
Fuel cells -- which produce electrical power without any combustion and operate on fuels like hydrogen, natural gas and propane -- could change all that.
Fuel cells are more efficient and quiet, making them a cleaner alternative to gasoline-powered generators. As part of the Energy Department-supported project, Acumentrics will test two 250 watt solid oxide fuel cells to power some of the remote broadcast cameras and two 1 kilowatt solid oxide fuel cells to power lights in pit row. Data collected from the project will be used to help further develop cost-effective, clean fuel cell technologies.
At every race, NASCAR uses at least 30 gasoline-powered generators to power remote cameras and broadcasting equipment. If they were to replace their gasoline-powered generators the with fuel cell units, they estimate they could save more than $2,000 per race weekend through reduced fuel use. That's a savings of $77,000 over the course of the season. Plus, fuel cell generators only have to be refueled once per weekend -- helping improve race safety and logistics.
Exploring the fuel cell possibilities is just one example of how NASCAR is committed to incorporating transformative clean energy technologies into its operations. Last September, NASCAR and the Energy Department signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the NASCAR Green Summit in Chicago, outlining ways to support the accelerated deployment of clean energy technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create competitive advantages for American businesses.