Yosemite Clean Air Initiative Involves H2 and Fuel Cells
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By Steve Hester, Vice President, Technology Transition Corporation

The objective of the Yosemite Clean Air Initiative is to deploy a safe, economical, and environmentally sound fuel and generation infrastructure in Yosemite National Park. This would include buses and other fleet transportation, portable and stationary power sources, and fuel cells in buildings. U.S. Congressman George Radanovich (Rep., Calif.) invited more than 30 guests and speakers to a briefing and discussion meeting at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite on April 21, 2003, to solicit recommendations to further the goals of the Initiative.
Guests at the Yosemite Clean Air Initiative briefing at the Ahwahnee Hotel in the National Park consider hydrogen and fuel cell options through the Park.

Radanovich’s 19th District in California includes the area from Modesto south to Fresno and east to the Sierra Mountains and includes all of Yosemite National Park. Through a combination of efforts from the National Park Service, other federal agencies, state and local governments, and private sector organizations, it is the Congressman’s intention that Yosemite National Park become a model for clean air technology and education. Hydrogen and fuel cells will play a vital role.

Under the Initiative, a pilot project will be designed to facilitate the production and conservation of energy and the deployment of an energy infrastructure, including hydrogen production, fuel cells, advanced vehicles, and clean fuel technologies. For hydrogen energy and infrastructure, the pilot project will provide safe and convenient refueling. Activities will focus on developing widespread availability of hydrogen, cost-effective production from domestic energy sources, and delivery, storage, and distribution methods. The program also will focus on stationary and transportation applications for fuel cells and distributed power generation within the Park.

An Education Opportunity
ith more than 3.6 million visitors per year, Yosemite National Park provides an opportunity for public education about air quality and clean power generation programs that are being conducted in the Park, as well as future areas of improvements and research. The mission of the Yosemite pilot program is to research, develop, and validate fuel cell and hydrogen production, delivery, and storage technologies for transportation and stationary applications. The project will help to reduce dependence on foreign oil; promote the use of diverse, domestic, and sustainable energy resources; reduce emissions from energy production and consumption; and increase the reliability and efficiency of electricity generation by utilizing distributed fuel cells.

The Initiative is supported by the design capabilities of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s Engineer Research and Development Center – Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (ERDC-CERL) and will involve implementation by the Park concessionaire, Delaware North. This clean air initiative fits well into the Delaware North role of operating the Park under its GreenPath operational strategy, where environmental considerations are addressed in all phases of Park operations.

Current and Suggested Plans
Leading the Yosemite Clean Air Initiative briefing were (second from left) Congressman George Radanovich, Fran Mainella, National Park Service, and Mike Tollefson, Superintendent of Yosemite National Park.

The Army Corps of Engineers is planning to soon use two or more hydrogen-fueled fuel cells to replace existing off-the-utility-grid diesel generators (used for power at existing off-grid Park operational facilities) and to then place a fuel cell at the Park Administration Building in Yosemite Village in the valley to displace a portion of the grid power used at the building. Modem-connected sensors will be used for remote monitoring and data acquisition. Additionally, heat from the fuel cell will be used to supplement the building’s diesel fired boiler, resulting in less diesel use.

An electric car charging station is to be installed on the same grid circuit, using the fuel cell power to charge the cars. Yosemite presently has a fleet of various electric vehicles. Beyond the grid power displaced, the fuel cell will reduce load on the diesel generator used during times of grid outage, giving another savings benefit in diesel fuel and exhaust. The project will also investigate the possibility of using absorption cooling to extend the capabilities.

The hydrogen source for this part of the project initially will be propane. The propane is reformed to hydrogen inside the fuel cell “package.” There are plans for exhibits and public education on fuel cells and hydrogen to increase public awareness of the technology and the Clean Air Initiative. Although there were no decisions on the make of the fuel cell, it was mentioned that the Corps of Engineers has experience with the five-kilowatt units from Plug Power.

In addition to the stationary fuel cells, the attendees suggested that the Park Service investigate mobile hydrogen fuel cells. Current plans are to obtain diesel electric hybrid buses for Park transportation; participants suggested that hydrogen fuel cell buses also be planned in the Initiative.

In addition to myself, representing the NHA, there were also representatives from the following NHA Member organizations who attended the briefing: ChevronTexaco, BP, Shell Hydrogen, Air Products, Honda, California Air Resources Board, and UTC Fuel Cells.

In addition to Congressman Radanovich and a few of his staff, others who spoke at the briefing were: Fran Mainella, Director of the National Park Service; Mike Tollefson, Superintendent of Yosemite National Park; Wayne Nastri from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Samual Bonasso of the U.S. Department of Transportation; Frank Holcomb of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Carol Tomlinson-Keasy, Chancellor of the University of California-Merced; Jim Larsen from Pacific Gas and Electric; and Bruce Fears of Delaware North.

The general tone of the speakers and guests was that everyone was very positive that this is the right time and the right place to have the clean fuels community—especially hydrogen—display and demonstrate products and applications. The meeting ended with the identification of the next step, that of having additional roundtable discussions on the Clean Air Initiative.  ©2003. All Rights Reserved. A Publication of the National Hydrogen Association.
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