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Stirling Energy Works Toward Goals


By Lara Neer, Project Coordinator, National Hydrogen Association

The NHA Commercialization Plan calls for demonstration fleets to be a very real presence in the years 2000-2005, in order to begin the first phases of the commercialization of hydrogen as an energy carrier. These demonstration fleets will prove that a transition to renewable hydrogen technologies would resolve many of today’s energy and environmental concerns while also educating the public about the safe use of hydrogen and its many benefits.

Many NHA members are actively working towards these goals. Stirling Energy Systems, Inc. (SES) — located in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.A., and a member since 1998 — along with Boeing are proposing to demonstrate key subsystems of solar-hydrogen energy technologies in a mobile fleet of vehicles that will be deployed to tour major U.S. cities. The objective is to demonstrate how effectively hydrogen can be manufactured from solar energy and water and utilized in existing gasoline- and diesel-powered engines.

SES will employ the patented Dish Stirling electrical generating system that was developed in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Boeing. This Dish Stirling System is a double-axis tracking solar concentrator that focuses the sun’s energy onto the heater head of a Stirling cycle engine which is connected to an electrical generator. The electricity produced is then used to make the hydrogen that will power the demonstration fleet. These systems can produce electricity with minimal water requirements; in fact, water is consumed mostly through washing the solar concentrators.

The five central demonstration vehicles will be a passenger car, two recreational vehicle (RV) mobile homes, a flatbed truck with mobile solar hydrogen production system, and a liquid hydrogen tanker truck. Each vehicle will display a different aspect of hydrogen safety and use. SES is in negotiations with BMW, Caterpillar, and Freightliner regarding their participation in this fleet project.

The flatbed truck will carry a one-kilowatt solar Dish Stirling System that will generate electricity which will be used to electrolyze hydrogen from water. The resulting hydrogen will then be liquified by a Stirling cryocooler and subsequently utilized to power the diesel engine of the truck.

Another important component of the fleet will be the hydrogen tanker truck. It will supply the other vehicles with hydrogen between major cities and document the safe transportation of hydrogen to national and global markets. The dual-fueled passenger vehicles will demonstrate how a liquid hydrogen storage system can be integrated with a conventional gasoline storage system.

Central to the fleet will be the command vehicle, a motorized “Mobile Solar Hydrogen Home” that will be combined with photovoltaic arrays for on-board hydrogen production. The electricity or hydrogen produced in this manner will provide power to the diesel engine and fuel cell as well as appliances and computers on the motor home. An additional RV-type vehicle will contain a state-of-the-art computer and video production system to be interfaced with “wearable” computer and video systems as part of the uniforms of the fleet crew.

Incorporating all of these components will propel the movement towards renewable hydrogen technologies forward, helping to realize the goals of both the Implementation and Commercialization Plans. Introducing the public to hydrogen in a controlled manner will also increase public awareness of the applicability and safety of hydrogen energy. The SES Hydrogen Fleet will begin the U.S. tour in Huntington Beach, California, and end at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. For more information on this project please visit the SES website at www.stirlingenergy.com.

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