Alternative Energy Flies at Air Force Base With Fuel Cell Forklifts

The Defense Logistics Agency kicked off its fuel cell forklift pilot project on July 24 at the Defense Depot Warner Robins. It is part of an effort to find alternative energy sources and reduce America's growing dependence on energy imports.

The DDWG, in collaboration with the DLA Research and Development Program, held the kickoff to introduce the second in a series of pilot projects to demonstrate the use of hydrogen fuel cells in forklifts that move vital supplies daily in support of the warfighter.

Concurrent Technologies Corp., is the lead contractor for the two-year demonstration program to retrofit 20 forklifts with hydrogen fuel cells. The hydrogen-to-power forklifts will be reformed on site from natural gas. A mobile refueling station will refuel the forklifts for daily warehouse operations.

Concurrent Technologies Corp., will team with Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. and Hydrogenics to complete the retrofit process, which will replace traditional batteries.

According to Dan Markiewicz, Concurrent Technologies Corp. director of advanced energy programs, one immediate operational benefit will be the elimination of the need to recharge batteries.

Previously, the recharging process meant removing a battery, putting it into a charging station to let it charge, then cooling off after the charge period, and then replacing at the end of the charging period. That process will be replaced with a much shorter process done by the mobile refueler.

The natural gas reformer, hydrogen fueling station system and dispensing module will be 15-by-18 feet and produce up to 2,000 standard cubic feet per hour of 99.999 percent pure hydrogen at 125 pounds per square inch gauge. The storage capacity will be 150 kilograms of hydrogen at 7,000 psig.

Leo Plonsky, DLA Research and Development program manager for hydrogen and fuel cells, noted the project's importance.

"There are a lot of technologies out there, but you have to transition them from the laboratory to the warehouse floor," Mr. Plonsky said. "What we're doing is taking technologies that are almost ready for that transition and pumping in a little R&D money so that we can transition into something that can be useful to the DOD."

Mr. Plonsky said by helping the facilities here in terms of improving their operations, the nation's alternative energy policy is being helped by reducing its dependence on imported fuel and helping the environment.

Col. Debra Bean, 78th Air Base Wing vice commander, said she is excited to see the program move forward.

"We all live with the same federal mandates to find an alternative fuel for our transportation," she said. "What you are doing here helps us reduce emissions and deal with the environmental challenges of batteries and processing and storage."

The vice commander renewed the wing commitment to any resources needed to make the project a reality and said it will certainly pay benefits that will far exceed any contributions made by the wing.

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