N.Y. approves $21 million hydropower-to-hydrogen project

The New York Power Authority’s board of trustees has authorized $21 million to finance a hydropower-to-hydrogen demonstration project to fuel hydrogen vehicles in the Buffalo/Niagara area of western New York.

Trustees authorized financing for the initiative Oct. 3. Gov. George Pataki said other state and federal government organizations and corporations are expected to take part in what he said would be one of the world’s largest hydrogen demonstration projects.

Potential project sites include Niagara Falls State Park and locations operated by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. Hydrogen production is expected to begin by the end of 2007. The project is expected to be fully implemented within three years, the governor’s office said.

The project will feature two hydrogen generation, storage, and fueling facilities, each capable of producing about 120 kilograms per day of clean-burning fuel. One kilogram of hydrogen has the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline.

The hydrogen stations are expected to use a total of up to 700 kW of hydropower. NYPA will provide the electricity from its 2,538-MW Niagara Power project to the National Frontier Transportation Authority, which already receives NYPA hydropower allocations for a light-rail system and Niagara Falls Air Base.

The hydrogen stations are expected to cost about $7.5 million, including infrastructure upgrades and educational displays. An additional investment of $13.5 million is required to procure or lease hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

Earlier this year, NYPA and the Electric Power Research Institute of Palo Alto, Calif., conducted a feasibility study that explored using hydropower to produce hydrogen by electrolysis, and using the hydrogen for a fleet of vehicles.

If the demonstration project proves successful, hydrogen vehicle fueling stations could be installed elsewhere in New York. NYPA added the hydropower-to-hydrogen program could jumpstart a new high-tech hydrogen industry, reduce the state’s dependence on fossil fuels, and improve local air quality.

�Dedicating low-cost and renewable hydropower to a sizable electrolysis project in the Buffalo/Niagara region will both insure successful hydrogen fuel demonstration projects and attract companies to the region that are developing this technology,� NYPA President Timothy Carey said. �The Buffalo/Niagara region is particularly suitable for the innovative hydrogen industry, given the region’s availability of a skilled workforce and state universities, and its proximity to inexpensive hydropower resources.�

There are a number of hydropower-to-hydrogen demonstration projects planned worldwide. Some were described by panelists attending The Hydrogen Economy 2006, a worldwide gathering of hydrogen energy enthusiasts held in conjunction with the HydroVision 2006 conference earlier this year in Portland, Ore. (HNN 7/31/06)

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Elizabeth Ingram is content director for the Hydro Review website and HYDROVISION International. She has more than 17 years of experience with the hydroelectric power industry. Follow her on Twitter @ElizabethIngra4 .

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