Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fort Bragg to test fuel cells

Sprawling, camo-intensive Fort Bragg will become one of eight U.S. military installations to test fuel cells as backup power, the Department of Energy said today.

Home to more than 50,000 active-duty soldiers (and endangered species including the red-cockaded woodpecker), Bragg is earning a name for energy innovation. Solar photovoltaic panels and solar hot water systems have been added to construction and renovation projects. Micro-hydro power, geothermal heat pumps, biodiesel production and energy meters to fine-tune efficiency are planned.

DOE's fuel cell tests will see how the technology, which generates electricity by chemical reaction, works in the real world. Department-funded research with 3M, DuPont, BASF and other companies has cut costs up to 80 percent since 2002, the government says. Many of the innovations that came out of that research will be tested at the military bases.

Compared with diesel generators, the usual source of backup power, fuel cells use no petroleum, are quieter and need less maintenance. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory will collect data from the $6.6 million project for two years, passing its findings to fuel cell developers and potential commercial and government adopters.

Fort Hood in Texas, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Base in Colorado, the Marine Corp's Air Ground Combat Center 29 Palms in California and the Ohio National Guard will also test the cells.

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