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HYDROGEN STORAGE FIRST FOR ALASKA

The world's first community to be powered exclusively by a large scale wind plant with hydrogen storage may possibly be built next year in Alaska. The $10 million system, to power St George's Island in the Bering Sea, would eliminate use of fossil fuels on the island. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, responsible for the project, is also working on a hydrogen hybrid car with a special internal combustion engine that can be fuelled at a "wind" or "hydrogen" station.

The world's first community powered entirely by a large scale wind plant with hydrogen storage could be built next year in Alaska. The $10 million system, to power St George's Island in the Bering Sea, would eliminate use of fossil fuels there, says project originator Glenn Rambach of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the United States.

Fourteen Model 15-50 wind turbines from small American wind company Atlantic Orient would be used. If the project is built, wind power would be siphoned off to an electrolyser, which would separate hydrogen from water and store it to power the town when the wind dies down. St George's Island is 600 miles from Anchorage and has a population of just 140. It is presently powered by a diesel generator.

The demonstration project has wide potential at sites in Alaska where electricity costs $0.25-0.70/kWh, says Rambach. It also has potential in Canada and other remote locations, especially those in the developing world once component costs are lower. The US Department of Energy is being asked to provide $5 million. The rest would come from other unspecified sources, says Jack Wood of Alaska Global H2 Corp of Juneau. The project would start in fiscal year 1995, beginning in October.

At the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Rambach is also developing a concept for powering cars from the wind. Using the same electrolysing principle, wind power would be used to make hydrogen fuel for the cars. These hydrogen hybrid cars, which would have special internal combustion engines, would refuel at "wind" or "hydrogen stations" instead of "petrol stations."

Rambach says that a single Kenetech 33M-VS wind turbine could power 100 cars continuously, each driving 12,000 miles a year, for a cost of $20-30 for 300 miles. The difficulty would be getting, say, 100 of the special cars built for a demonstration project, he says. Auto manufacturers generally build thousands or millions of one model, not 100, he notes. "The wind turbine's the easy part, it's getting the cars," he says. "We have the wind, we have the engine. It's just hard for any entity to make 100 cars."

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