Studies: Fuel Cells - Brooks City-Base
San Antonio, TX
In San Antonio,
Texas, four fuel cell systems went on-line to power several living units and an
aerospace education center at Brooks City-Base. The event marked the first field
installation of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells in the state of Texas.
will provide energy to several housing units on the base. The U. S. Army Construction
Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL), part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
was the primary funding agency responsible for the residential fuel-cell project.
projects are using 5-kilowatt (kW) fuel cell systems, manufactured by Plug Power
Inc. of Latham, N.Y. The units convert natural gas into electricity and usable
heat through an electrochemical reaction between hydrogen (from natural gas) and
oxygen (from the air). In simple terms, the fuel cells are similar to batteries
that run continuously as long as hydrogen and oxygen are provided.
Challenger Learning Center Project
Challenger Learning Center provides hands-on, simulated space missions for middle
school students. The single 5-kW fuel cell system at the Center not only generates
electricity to power the 9,600-square-foot building, but also heats water using
its own waste heat.
As this fuel
cell is exposed to high summer temperatures, it will provide valuable insight
on fuel cell performance in the sultry South Texas climate.
director and facilities manager for the Challenger Learning Center, Bill Merrill,
noted, "Having a fuel cell power the Center will allow us to educate the
next generation of energy consumers about this alternative fuel source that is
also widely used in the space program."
CPS is involved
in the installation, operation and maintenance of the Challenger Center fuel cell
system; and the Brooks Energy and Sustainability Lab is providing technical support.
Under the residential project, electricity from three fuel cells provides energy
for three 1,600-square-foot housing units in the Brooks City-Base housing area.
The residential project is part of a CERL fuel cell program that encompasses 40
similar projects at several U.S. military bases.
College, also in San Antonio, plans to utilize the residential project to teach
its students the basics of fuel cell systems as part of a broader program on advanced
energy systems. Beginning in March 2003, the school will offer tours of both fuel
cell sites at Brooks City-Base.