Fuel Cells Powering Up at Robins AFB
Robins Air Force Base received ten 5kW fuel cells in October 2005 as part of the Robins Micro-grid Project. The fuel cells will provide 275,000 kilowatt hours of power to the base’s power source until their departure in October 2006. New York-based manufacturer Plug Power Inc., Atlanta-based Logan Energy Corp., the Army Corps of Engineers Research and Development Center and others are involved.
The quiet fuell cells reform propane gas and extract hydrogen to produce electricity as part of Robins’ Fuel Cell Micro-grid project, also known as the Common Core Power Production (C2P2) program. C2P2 a year-long demonstration-validation Department of Defense, Air Force program to ultimately seek alternative, environmentally-sound fuel sources for troops in deployed locations as part of BEAR (basic expeditionary airfield resources), or as backup power sources for stateside bases. So, how will this program work?
In addition to using propane as an alternative energy source, the fuel cells can also reform jet fuel, natural gas and any fuel source that contains hydrogen, even water, into power sources – a method that may prove to be more convenient for servicemembers already carrying jet fuel to power the mission, said Mike Mead, APTO chief here.
“It is critical to our mission to explore and compare fuel cell systems with our existing power sources to remain efficient, cost effective and environmentally focused,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for the U.S. military to partner with Plug Power to evaluate a new product before the commercial product release. This demonstration will assist APTO in increasing the war fighters’ capabilities, support the Air Force environmental policy and reduce the dependency on foreign oil sources.”
At the end of the year-long program, APTO will receive a final report on the unit data retrieved by Plug Power and the fuel cell systems will be returned to the company for destructive testing and autopsy to determine what configuration of the 10 systems worked best.
78th CEG’s Environmental Management Division hopes to retain some of the fuel cells so Air Force environmental engineers can use them to determine what they want to propose for the next generation back up power when building new facilities.