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Colorado Joins the Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Race

December 3, 2015 - 1:03am

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Keith Wipke of NREL discusses NREL’s new hydrogen station and the HyStEP device being used to test it with David Friedman, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the DOE. | Photo courtesy of NREL

Keith Wipke of NREL discusses NREL’s new hydrogen station and the HyStEP device being used to test it with David Friedman, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the DOE. | Photo courtesy of NREL

When one thinks of clean energy, they often think of California, who is commmitting up to $100M over five years to build 100 hydrogen stations across the state, as the biggest mover and shaker. But Colorado is quickly gaining ground when it comes to hydrogen and fuel cells.

Backed by a substantial support system of energy research companies, organizations, and universities that provide research, testing, and employment, hydrogen and fuel cell activities in Colorado have been steadily increasing. Generous tax credits for zero-emission vehicles and funding for clean-tech companies through accelerator programs are also factors in Colorado’s rising position.

Colorado is home to the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development in the United States. NREL operates the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF), which includes a state-of-the-art Fuel Cell Development and Test Laboratory. The facility’s hydrogen and fuel cell research focuses on developing, integrating, and demonstrating hydrogen production and delivery, hydrogen storage, and fuel cell technologies for transportation, stationary, and portable applications. Major automakers such as Toyota, Daimler, GM, Hyundai, Nissan, and Honda have utilized NREL’s testing capabilities when developing their FCEVs.

In celebration of National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day on Oct. 8, NREL dedicated its hydrogen fueling station, the first of its kind in Colorado. The fueling station is part of NREL's new hydrogen infrastructure testing and research facility, where scientists will be able to produce hydrogen through electrolysis, test fuel cell vehicle and infrastructure components and systems, and improve renewable hydrogen production methods. The facility will support research and development projects funded by the Energy Department's Fuel Cell Technologies Office in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) as well as industry, government, and university partners.

NREL is using the facility to test the hydrogen station equipment performance (HyStEP) device for EERE’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office. The HyStEP device is intended to accelerate commercial hydrogen station acceptance by validating that the station can follow standard protocols for safe hydrogen fueling. The data generated by the device will be shared with all car manufacturers, instead of each company having to separately validate a station's performance.

Fuel cells are a player in the forklift space in Colorado, as well. The Kroger facility in Stapleton operates over 200 fuel cell forklifts and installed state-of-the-art infrastructure with liquid storage and multiple dispensers.

The Colorado Hydrogen Coalition (CHC) was formed in 2014 to accelerate the development of the hydrogen and fuel cell technologies market in Colorado, and to promote collaborative stakeholder engagement across sectors. CHC brings together interests from the Energy Department, NREL, automakers, Clean Cities, Colorado fuel cells component manufacturers, local governments, and professional service providers. Currently, the CHC’s work is focused in helping develop Colorado’s regulations, codes and standards to support broader commercialization of fuel cells. The Coalition is also working with automakers to get commercially available fuel cell vehicles in limited numbers into the state through fleet leases, in addition to the first publically available fueling station.

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