DTE Energy announces hydrogen power park partnership

DETROIT, Sept. 23, 2002 — DTE Energy has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as its partner in a first-ever hydrogen power park project.

Anthony F. Earley Jr., DTE Energy chairman and chief executive officer, recently announced the partnership at the MicroGeneration to Power Parks II conference in Detroit. The project will demonstrate how a non-fossil, fuel- based energy system can work, from the generation of hydrogen, to its transmission, storage, distribution and, ultimately, its conversion into electricity or fuel for transportation.

Over the next three years, DTE Energy will develop, build and operate an integrated hydrogen energy system capable of delivering 15,000 kilowatthours of environmentally friendly electricity per year.

“Coal, natural gas and petroleum dominate the energy landscape, but a sea change is coming,” Earley told conference attendees in his welcoming speech. “Our current dependence on fossil fuels will gradually give way to a world powered by … hydrogen. This evolution will happen over time, through strategic and sustained efforts. And DTE Energy intends to be in the forefront.”

Earley said the implications of a hydrogen economy are substantial:

* A massive reduction in air pollution, oil spills, acid rain and greenhouse gas emissions.
* A global shift away from dependence on Middle East oil.
* Greater energy security and less vulnerable electric energy delivery systems.
* The emergence of quiet, decentralized electric plants small enough to power a home, car, business or town.

The power park project, Earley said, will provide critical insight into the technical challenges and economic viability of hydrogen as an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional fuels. And while many individual components of a hydrogen system are being studied, this is the first time that the economics of an entire power park will be evaluated.

DTE Energy will partner with several leading technology providers, including Plug Power, a fuel cell development and manufacturing company in which DTE Energy has a 28 percent stake. In addition, DTE Energy will use the Systems Operations Center of its DTE Energy Technologies subsidiary to gather, analyze and document the engineering data and safety standards to operate the system and each of its components.

“This information will be critical,” Earley said, “in determining the feasibility of future commercialization because it will help us identify under what operating and market conditions a hydrogen system could be competitive.”

The system will run on hydrogen generated from renewable resources. During off-peak operating hours, electricity from landfill gas or conventional central-station power (as a benchmark) will be used in an electrolysis process to produce hydrogen gas from pure water. The hydrogen will be compressed and stored for later use.

During peak operating hours, the stored hydrogen will be used to operate a 50-kilowatt (kW) fuel cell and a 25-kW Stirling Engine or advanced reciprocating engine. The electricity produced will be used to offset the normal energy requirements of a typical office park, while the heat generated will be used to supplement existing heating and cooling systems.

Earley noted that the hydrogen system also will likely be deployed as part of another distributed energy project, NextEnergy, a center for the research, development, commercialization and manufacture of alternative energy technologies.

“At DTE Energy, we share (Gov. John Engler’s) hope that this cluster of innovation in the NextEnergy Zone will dramatically accelerate the commercialization of new energy technologies — much like Silicon Valley did for information technologies,” Earley said. “DTE Energy is, and will continue to be, very involved in the planning and execution of this important initiative.”

Earley added that the Zone will be powered by a microgrid system designed, engineered and built by Farmington Hills, Mich.-based DTE Energy Technologies and remotely monitored by its System Operations Center. The system will use a combination of fuel cells and other distributed energy technologies to generate power. Eventually, hydrogen-fueled reciprocating engines will be part of the mix and the conventional electric grid will be used as a backup.

The expectation, Earley added, is to install about 600 kW of electric power during the first phase of the project next year, with additional generation added in the following three to four years.

Source: DTE Energy

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