MILITARY TESTS ALTERNATIVE FUEL CELL

Robins AFB Georgia is one of 30 military installations worldwide selected for testing an electrochemical device that generates electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen as an alternative fuel source - producing water as a byproduct.

Carl Perazzola, advanced alternative power technology transition section chief, said turning to alternative fuel sources is a way the U.S. can preserve its fossil fuel resources. “Most of our bases have natural compressed gas for heating and cooling loads,” he said, “so we began looking at it as an alternative fuel source.”

Reaching temperatures up to 700 F, the fuel cell captures heat to produce hot water for Robins' firefighters' showering, laundering and cooking needs, and scrubs out sulfur to purify the hydrogen for fuel usage.

President George W. Bush's January State of the Union Address highlighted his $1.3 billion request to Congress for fuel cell funding. Fuel cells are seen as a way to reduce DOD's fuel bill and help bases comply with the Clean Air Act of 1970

Robins AFB partners with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center Construction Engineering Research Laboratory, the funding source of the project, to make the base a beta test site.

Col. David Nakayama, head of Support Equipment and Vehicle Management Directorate, said if the system proves to be reliable it may become more than an alternative fuel source. It may become the fuel source norm.

“The United States imports more than half of its petroleum,” he said. “There are significant social, political and military implications with that because 64% of the world's oil comes from the Middle East. The cost of foreign oil dependence is no longer an economic environmental issue. There are serious strategic concerns. Replacing fossil fuel sources with alternative solutions is not something that can be dealt with tomorrow, it must be faced today.”

“We're very fortunate to have the first fuel cell beta test site at Robins AFB,” Nakayama added. “Fuel is one of the most difficult things to move in any conflict, in any campaign. If we can solve that, we've not only reduced the logistical footprint of our deployed troops, but we've changed how we defend American interests around the world.” AFPN