Santee Cooper, Center for Hydrogen Research Announce New Venture

November 20, 2008

AIKEN, SC – November 21, 2008 – Santee Cooper and the Center for Hydrogen Research announced a contract today that significantly advances hydrogen generation from renewable energy sources. Santee Cooper is providing $230,000 to the Center for the purchase of a photovoltaic array (PV) to help research applications of hydrogen as a storage solution for solar energy.

The PV array will be installed early in 2009 at the Center’s planned Education, Training and Development Laboratory at Aiken County’s Savannah River Research Campus. Part of Santee Cooper’s contribution will also be used for on-site and Internet-based education and research opportunities for students and the public. Funding is provided through Santee Cooper’s Green Power program, which the state’s 20 electric cooperatives support and promote/

Aiken Electric Cooperative facilitates the sale of Green Power to its member-owners. In an additional development, the Center for Hydrogen Research Aiken County has become a Green Power Partner. That means the Center has agreed to purchase blocks of Green Power each month from Aiken Electric.

One obstacle to the use of solar energy is difficulty storing the energy so that it can be utilized when the sun isn’t shining. Hydrogen can be stored and transported, and so is a recognized energy storage solution that has applications for powering vehicles or electrical generation. Most hydrogen today comes from natural gas. Renewable energy-sourced hydrogen is a fast-growing research and development field across the country.

“Santee Cooper is committed to pursuing new technologies that could expand the applications for renewable energy,” said Lonnie Carter, Santee Cooper president and chief executive officer.  “The Center for Hydrogen Research is leading the way in South Carolina, helping discover processes through which we can store solar and wind energy for use when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. This demonstration project also complements and enhances strategic hydrogen and fuel cell industries in South Carolina.”

Fred Humes, director of the center, said, “This is a great step forward as we look to the development of hydrogen production from renewable sources and build upon the developmental capabilities of the Center for Hydrogen Research. We recognize South Carolina may not have the same solar potential as many of the western states, but solar energy can still play a major role here. The PV array will allow us to develop a baseline for the potential contribution of renewable PV energy in the production of hydrogen, especially in small quantities or in remote areas.”

The PV array would convert sunlight into electricity, which would then produce hydrogen through electrolyzing water. Hydrogen could be converted back to electricity using fuel cells, and it could power hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

“We have recognized for many years the tremendous potential we have in Aiken County for the advancement of technology that can be beneficial to this nation,” said Ronnie Young, chairman of Aiken County Council. “This will be a much-valued asset as we advance our technology transfer programs into production of hydrogen from renewable energy and research the potential for solar power in our region. We appreciate very much the far-sighted approach Santee Cooper takes to the development of alternative energy sources through partnership with local communities.”
Gary Stooksbury, chief executive officer of Aiken Electric Cooperative, noted that the project is supported by people who are paying a premium for renewable energy. “Sales of Santee Cooper-generated Green Power, supported by the electric cooperatives, are used to enhance and expand renewable programs in South Carolina. Aiken Electric Cooperative is pleased that our member-owners recognize not only the value of sustainable energy, but also the unique position of the Aiken area to develop potential new industries.”

The Economic Development Partnership works with Aiken County on the development of new technology at the research campus. John Troutman, chairman of the Partnership, said, “This is one more step in capitalizing on the technology in our community.  As Aiken County, the Savannah River National Laboratory, and the Center move forward in the commercialization of new technology, solar power and its potential contribution to solving our energy crisis plays an important role. It adds one more brick to the foundation for creating jobs based on our resident technology.” 

Santee Cooper is South Carolina’s state-owned electric and water utility and the state’s largest power producer, supplying electricity to more than 163,000 retail customers in Berkeley, Georgetown and Horry counties, as well as to 29 large industrial facilities, the cities of Bamberg and Georgetown, and the Charleston Air Force Base. Santee Cooper also generates the power distributed by the state’s 20 electric cooperatives to more than 700,000 customers in all 46 counties. Approximately 2 million South Carolinians receive their power directly or indirectly from Santee Cooper. The utility also provides water to 137,000 consumers in Berkeley and Dorchester counties, and the town of Santee.

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