China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station Trailer-Mounted Fuel Cell

Apr 01, 2013 The U.S. Navy has announced plans to test a new type of trailer-mounted fuel cell, which works in concert with solar panels, at its China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station in Ridgecrest, California. The system can produce about 5 kW of electricity and can be towed behind military vehicles, which many experts claim will make for safer missions. The location of the combination fuel cell and solar panel system is considered particularly appropriate for the trial since it is located in the Mojave Desert, where cloud cover is extremely rare.

During the daylight hours, military equipment will be powered by solar panels, and surplus energy will be used to generate hydrogen. After the sun goes down, the hydrogen will be cycled through the trailer-mounted fuel cell to generate more energy. One of the major reasons why the Navy chose to implement the new fuel cell system is because of the very high cost of fuel convoys. The dynamic design of the system and its ability to move quickly and easily will hopefully aid in the simplification and streamlining of logistical missions. As Wayne Taylor, a program manager for the Navy’s Renewable Energy Office, explains, “Since this system only needs water to operate, one of its biggest benefits is reducing the logistics requirements associated with fuel convoys, which could save lives.” (More here.) The Department of Defense has demonstrated fuel cells since the 1990s in a wide range of stationary, motive and portable applications, at military bases and for use by warfighters in the field.  In recent years, the Department of Defense and Department of Energy teamed to promote fuel cell technology in the armed forces, implementing the PEM Fuel Cell Backup Demonstration Program to deploy fuel cells at eight military bases across the United States ; the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) has undertaken demonstrations of fuel cells in materials handling and other transport applications; and the U.S. Army, Pacific has deployed a fleet of 16 GM fuel cell vehicles at military sites in Hawaii.

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