From: Alejandro Bodipo-Memba, Detroit Free Press
Published July 18, 2005 12:00 AM

DTE to Unveil Hydrogen Energy Park

With an eye on future U.S. energy needs, DTE Energy Co. plans to unveil Michigan's first Hydrogen Technology Park on Saturday in Southfield, Michigan, where hydrogen fuel cells and the vehicles they power will be on display for the public.

The grand opening of Michigan's first multi use, renewable hydrogen-fueling station has brought together the utility and automotive industries to develop alternative power sources that don't rely on petroleum. The five-year project, funded in a 50 -50 venture with the U.S. Department of Energy, will study the possibilities of commercial use of hydrogen power.

DTE, Michigan's largest power company, has teamed with DaimlerChrysler AG, Lawrence Technological University and BP (formerly British Petroleum) to develop a cutting-edge Hydrogen Power Park, which powers 10 5-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cells, using solar power and the electric grid. The park also contains a hydrogen- fuel-cell vehicle filling station capable of refueling three prototype hydrogen- fuel-cell vehicles daily.

Given the high price of gasoline these days -- the average price for regular in Michigan is $2.38 a gallon -- the study couldn't come sooner. The United States imports nearly 60 percent of the crude oil consumed in the country. Meanwhile, the prices of crude oil, the feedstock for gasoline, have more than doubled over the last three years.

After flirting with the $60-a-barrel threshold the last three weeks, August delivery of crude oil futures fell $2.11 to close at $57.80 Thursday on the New York Mercantile Exchange after meteorologists determined that Hurricane Emily would not likely hurt oil production in the Gulf of Mexico.

Fuel cells use stored hydrogen and oxygen from the air to produce electricity to power cars, trucks and stationary products. Fuel cells also are virtually pollution free because they create only water vapor.

"This is the future of energy," said Robert Regan , a project manager with DTE. "Long term we have energy issues that we're dealing with in this country, and I think hydrogen has the potential for replacing petroleum."

At Inkster and West 11 Mile roads next to a Detroit Edison substation, the new power park is a demonstration facility that is capable of producing hydrogen gas from tap water.

During off-peak hours, electricity from the power grid and solar panels at the station is used to produce hydrogen. The gas is then compressed and stored in tanks on site. The stored hydrogen is then delivered to 10 fuel cells at the station. Enough electricity is generated to power 20 homes and refuel three hydrogen-powered vehicles a day.

The open house, which is to take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, will feature tours, rides in fuel-cell vehicles and refreshments.

DaimlerChrysler is using the Mercedes F-Cell, a four-passenger compact fuel cell vehicle, and the Dodge Fuel Cell Sprinter van for the vehicle refueling aspect of the project.

"Given the scale of what we're contemplating here, you need companies with the size and the resources like DTE, BP and DaimlerChrysler in order to make this thing a reality," Regan said.

The $ 4-million project, funded through 2008, is part of President George W. Bush's Hydrogen Fuel Initiative, which is expected to invest $1.7 billion over five years to see if hydrogen-fuel technology can work for larger commercial purposes.

The Southfield station is part of Michigan SmartZones and is one of only three multi use hydrogen-power park projects in the country. The other two are in Arizona and Hawaii.

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Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

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