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Civil War Icon Becomes National Clean Energy Model

December 2, 2010 - 2:26pm


Nearly a century and a half after the first shots of the Civil War, Fort Sumter National Monument is poised to become a national model for clean energy. By adopting solar and hydrogen fuel cell technologies, the monument will generate clean, renewable power - establishing itself as an energy self-sufficient island. This project is part of the Energy SmartPARKS initiative. This first-of-its-kind collaboration - launched in 2008 with the Department of Energy, Department of Interior, and the National Park Service - is designed to implement and showcase sustainable energy practices in national parks.

The solar and hydrogen fuel cell project will generate clean power using a combination of technologies, while reducing the need for grid-delivered electricity. Currently Fort Sumter - located on an island in Charleston Harbor in South Carolina, receives primary power from underwater electric cable lines, and pulls backup power from an on-site diesel-electric generator. When the solar and hydrogen fuel cell project is completed, Fort Sumter’s primary power will be generated on-site, and the grid will become a secondary source of electricity. The diesel generator will be used only for long-term outages.

A team of energy experts, headed by the South Carolina Research Authority and the Center for Hydrogen Research, is presently developing a feasibility study to develop a micro grid design that will enable Fort Sumter to become a “net zero” user of electricity from the grid, returning power to the grid during peak production. On an annual basis, the fort would return just as much energy to the grid as it uses from it. Technical assistance, project development, and data collection are being provided by Department of Energy’s Fuel Cell Technologies Program, which provides similar support to military installations and early fuel cell adopters across the country.

The National Park Service anticipates that the project will become a model for other facilities to copy under the Energy SmartPARKs program. Through Department of Energy research and industry partnership, projected costs of fuel cell systems at high volumes have been reduced by 80% since 2002. With costs coming down, even more facilities will find fuel cells a cost effective option for producing power on-site. The team plans to install Hydrogen fuel cell backup power systems and solar panels in time for the 150th anniversary to commemorate the Fort Sumter’s defining moment in American history.

To learn more about the Fort Sumter National Monument, visit the National Park Service Website.

Sunita Satyapal is the Program Manager for the Fuel Cell Technologies Program.