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Fuel Cells Increasingly on States' Radar

May 17, 2002

Ohio Proposes to Join Race With the growing need to identify cleaner sources of power, coupled with recent advances in alternative energy technologies, many states are targeting science and technology investments toward fuel cells. California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York all have made investments in fuel cell research demonstration or commercialization projects through energy related research funds. Michigan launched its fuel cell strategy in April (see the April 19, 2002 edition of the SSTI Weekly Digest).

Examples of specific fuel cell activities within the states include:

  • The National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California Irvine is managing a pilot demonstration project launched in April that will allow rail commuters to use a pool of 50 low-emission electric vehicles to complete their commutes. The cars are recharged using solar and fuel cell technologies. Automakers participating in the program can earn credits toward a state requirement that will require 10 percent of all California car sales to involve zero-emission vehicles. In addition, the California Fuel Cell Partnership, a collaborative of auto manufacturers, energy companies, fuel cell technology companies, and government agencies, expects to place up to 60 fuel cell passenger cars and fuel cell buses on the road between 2000 and 2003.
  • The Connecticut Clean Energy Fund is investing $6 million in first-year investments for fuel cell commercial application projects. Managed by Connecticut Innovations, Inc., the Fund is capitalized by a surcharge on consumers' utility bills and is expected to grow to approximately $120 million by 2005.
  • In March of 2001, the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust, administered by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, launched the first two rounds of funding for its Premium Power Program. The objective is to promote the use of commercially available fuel cells in applications that require high reliability and/or power quality. On May 1, 2002, the Trust opened a request for information that could lead toward a $10 million targeted to distributed renewable energy generation.
  • The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority recently awarded a $500,000 matching grant to MTI MicroFuel Cells, Inc. for development and commercialization of direct methanol micro fuel cell technology. The company in partnership with DuPont also received a $4.6 million grant in 2001 from the Advanced Technology Program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

With last week's announcement by Governor Bob Taft, Ohio becomes the latest to announce a strategic initiative to secure a prominent position in the start-up industry. The proposal, which hinges on voter passage of a $500 million bond issue for research and technology, includes a $100 million, three-year initiative focused on three areas:

  • Expand the state's research capabilities by building on the work at universities such as Case Western Reserve University, Ohio University, and The Ohio State University and federal laboratories including NASA Glenn, the Air Force Research Lab at Wright-Patterson;
  • Participate in demonstration projects involving hydrogen infrastructure; and
  • Invest in expanding the fuel cell industry in Ohio to attract companies and the jobs they provide.

Ohio's fuel cell initiative calls for the Ohio Department of Development to allocate more than $100 million in funds for the following: $75 million for various financing projects; $25 million for research, development and demonstration; and $3 million for training.