Military tests fuel-cell backup power systems

U.S. military bases are required to keep functioning even if there’s a power failure, so typically they have backup systems that run on diesel. 

But as part of a push to go green – which the military says will make soldiers less vulnerable and help and improve energy security – eight bases around the country will getting fuel-cell backup power systems, the government announced.

The demonstration project is a product of a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) memorandum of understanding reached in July 2010 that is intended to “enhance national energy security and demonstrate leadership in transitioning America to a low carbon economy.”

The departments said the fuel-cell project will provide an opportunity to “see how 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.”

A total of 18 fuel cells will be installed, going in at Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Hood, Texas; the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.; Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.; Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.; Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Base, Colo.; the U.S. Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Calif.; and the Ohio National Guard. 

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will collect performance data for the first two years of the five-year demonstration project, the departments said, with that data being made available to “fuel cell developers and commercial and government leaders interested in adopting this technology.”

Fuel cell technology, while having significantly higher start-up costs than traditional batteries or generators, requires less maintenance, runs quieter and can be easily monitored from a remote location, the departments said.

The hope is that with targeted fuel cell demonstrations, the scale of deployment of fuel cells will increase, helping improve the economics of the technology and leading to more widespread adoption and use.


Jasmine Greene, EarthTechling