Energy Department Highlights Commissioning of Innovative Fuel Cell System at U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground

November 17, 2011

The U.S. Department of Energy today recognized the commissioning of an innovative fuel cell system at the United States Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, which will supply the facility with emergency backup power. The four-stack system is one of the first of 18 fuel cells to be installed and operated at military bases across the country under an interagency partnership between the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Defense (DOD). A ribbon cutting ceremony held at the base yesterday was led by Major General Nick Justice, Commander of the Army’s Research and Development and Engineering Command, to celebrate the installation of the system at the base’s Building Operations Command Center. Under the partnership, the Departments test how the 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.

"Fuel cells are a key part of our portfolio of clean energy technologies, and demonstrations like these help move our innovations from the lab to the market," said Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Dr. Henry Kelly. "Our partnership with DOD as an early adopter of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies will accelerate our transition to a clean energy future."

Compared with batteries, fuel cells are a reliable source of backup power because they offer long continuous run times and greater durability in harsh outdoor environments, which makes them ideal power sources for DOD applications. Unlike traditional electricity generators used for backup power, fuel cells use no petroleum, are quieter, and produce fewer pollutants and emissions. Fuel cells also typically require less maintenance than either batteries or traditional generators, and can easily be monitored remotely to reduce maintenance time.

Aberdeen Proving Ground will also install three 5 kW fuel cells to provide critical back up power to its Range Control and Coordination Building, and an 8 kW fuel cell to provide backup power to the Snow Emergency building. LOGANEnergy of Roswell, Georgia, will install and maintain the fuel cells, which were manufactured by ReliOn of Spokane, Washington, and Idatech of Bend, Oregon.

Over the last decade, DOE has invested in research and development projects to advance key fuel cell components such as catalysts and membranes at several companies including 3M, Dupont, Gore, Johnson Matthey, and BASF. This research has helped reduce the costs of fuel cells by up to 80% since 2002, and many of these innovations are now being used in the fuel cell units being deployed by DOD.

Seven other military installations will be installing emergency fuel cell backup power under the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two Departments in July 2010.

  • Fort Bragg, North Carolina
  • Fort Hood, Texas
  • The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York
  • Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey
  • Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Base, Colorado
  • U.S. Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center 29 Palms, California
  • The Ohio National Guard, Columbus, Ohio.

The $6.6 million project announced in July is a joint effort by DOD’s U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. DOD will manage the project and DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will collect performance data for the first two years of this five-year demonstration. The NREL data will be available to fuel cell developers and commercial and government leaders interested in adopting this technology.

By working together, DOE and DOD can help promote scientific and technological innovation and accelerate the deployment of cutting-edge energy technologies that will strengthen American energy security and create new jobs for U.S. workers.

DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy invests in clean energy technologies that strengthen the economy, protect the environment, and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. Find out more about DOE's support of research, development and deployment of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.