Ohio is a major hotspot in the U.S. for fuel cell research and development. In 2010 and 2011, Fuel Cells 2000 chose Ohio as a Top 5 state and in 2012, included the state in several of its breakout Top 5 lists. Ohio has seen public policy, private businesses, and several educational institutions work in concert to make the state a strong platform for fuel cell progress.
Pat Valente, Executive Director of the Ohio Fuel Cell Coalition, was recently interviewed in Hi Velocity, an online journal that focuses on energy and industry in Ohio. He proudly credited the state’s several economic development policies, which support the growth of the fuel cell industry in Ohio, as well as the innovation of several universities and private companies.
The Brookings Institute has estimated that Ohio’s fuel cell industry accounts for nearly 10% of clean energy jobs in the United States, and for good reason: Ohio has implemented several public policies that encourage the development of fuel cells, including The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio’s Long-term Renewable Energy Credits Program, the Ohio Development Services Agency’s Qualified Energy Project Tax Exemption, and Alternative Fuel Transportation Grant Program.
Certainly one of the most robust fuel cell friendly programs in Ohio is the Ohio Department of Development’s (ODOD) Third Frontier Program. Since 2002, the program has allowed for the investment of more than $80 million in a variety of fuel cell-related projects throughout the state, under The Ohio Third Frontier Fuel Cell Program (OTFFCP). The program provides grants for projects that are “aimed at developing new products that have the potential to reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of fuel cells in Ohio.”
This program played a role in attracting Rolls-Royce Fuel Cell Systems, which has since been acquired by Korean electronics giant LG Fuel Cell Systems, to the state. The research arm of LG chose to relocate to Ohio because of the access to resources and qualified personnel at Stark State University’s new Fuel Cell Prototyping Center in North Canton.
Despite being an industry leader in the development and production of fuel cell components, historically there have not been an outstanding number of fuel cell installations in the state. That is beginning to change.
Several installations have taken place in Ohio in recent years, including those of multiple units on military property. The DOE and the DOD have teamed up for the PEM Fuel Cell Backup Demonstration Program, which is aimed at increasing fuel cell use in the armed forces. Four fuel cell units are located at the Command Headquarters and one fuel cell is at the Civil Support Administration. The U.S. Army National Guard site in Columbus is one of eight military sites selected under the DOD/DOE project.
Another major installation came in 2010, when FirstEnergy Generation Corp. of Eastlake, Ohio acquired a 1 MW stationary fuel cell produced by Ballard Energy Systems. The cell is expected to provide domestic power to approximately 500 homes during peak periods, in a 5-year trial.
The DOE has initiated several fuel cell and hydrogen-related research and development projects at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio State University, University of Toledo, Case Western Reserve University, Wright State University, University of Akron, and Stark State College of Technology. Ohio State University will host two EcoSaver IV Hybrid Electric fuel cell buses as a part of a two-year demonstration and trial period for the low emission bus design.
Since this January, a fuel cell powered bus has been serving commuters in Cleveland. Last year the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) teamed up with the NASA Glenn Research Center on a hydrogen fuel cell bus project, which included the fabrication of the buses themselves, as well as the installation of several hydrogen fueling stations throughout the city.
Ohio has long been home to an industry that has been a major player in the deployment of fuel cells: forklifts. Crown Forklifts, of Huber Heights, Ohio, has been integrating fuel cell technology into its materials handling vehicles for six years and recently built its 500th fuel cell forklift. The company now produces and distributes 20 electric forklift models to operate with various fuel cells.
At the end of this month, representatives from Catacel and NexTech Materials, two Ohio companies that develop fuel cell materials, will attend the World Smart Energy Week conference in Tokyo. The event is one of the largest industry conferences and draws energy innovators from around the world. It will include the 9th International Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Conference. The event should be a valuable forum for the exchange of smart energy ideas, which will allow Ohio to showcase its successes and products to the international fuel cell community.