The History and Experience of the Hydrogen Energy Center

For three decades, our volunteer-run Maine non-profit corporation has advanced the transition to a renewable hydrogen energy economy through education, demonstration, and advocacy.

1991 Hydrogen Energy Opportunities Center, predecessor to HEC, is created in Portland, Maine

1993  One of Fifty Invited Observers at the 15-Member Solar Hydrogen Industrial Workshop in Los Angeles, an industry think-tank session including oil majors,, aerospace companies,  car manufacturers and electric and gas utilities. Many of the Observers became directors and officers of the National Hydrogen Association (NHA), now the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA), as well as advisors to DOE, to the California Air Resourses Board ( CARB) and to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD)

1994 Participated in Washington, DC presentations to US Congressional leaders in support of increased funding for the Hydrogen Futures Act and attended related technical presentations by the Hydrogen Technical Adisory Panel to the DOE. These meetings resulted in long-term collaborations with the American Hydrogen Association, with Frank Lynch (Frank trademarked the word “Hythane’) and with Clean Air Now, whose Executive Director, James Provezano, who drives a hydrogen fuel cell electric Honda Clarity, is an HEC member today

1995, Attendee, Ribbon cutting, Xerox’s El Segundo CA, solar hydrogen production demonstration site. Equipment from that project is used today by Sunline Transit’s bus service in Thousand Palms, CA.   

1996 Blue Ribbon Winner for Most Educational Poster Display at MOFGA’s 1996 Common Ground Fair and presented same materials at National Hydrogen Association Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

1997  HEC was a founding Stakeholder of the Greater Portland Clean Cities Coalition, now known as Maine Clean Communities, one of nearly 100 locally led Coalitions across the nation working with US DOE to reduce the use of petroleum in the transportation sector.  In the early years of the Coalition, HEC’s Rick Smith was an active member of the Legislative Committee which was successful in passing state laws that promoted, and/or removed barriers to, the proliferation of alternative fuel vehicles and infrastructure.  The most significant of these efforts was the equilibration of state highway taxes on alternative fuels based on their BTU contents relative to gasoline and diesel.  Maine was the first state to remove this disincentive and it endures in state statute to this day.

2001 Co-Chair, two-day Hydrogen Investment Workshop in Washington DC attended by nearly 100 hydrogen and fuel cell equipment companies, their potential financial backers and government agency members. Presenters included a delegation from China presenting carbon sequestration technologies.

2001 BMW brought HEC to Paramount’s Hollywood CA studios to participate in the two-day rollout of BMW;s 750 LH liquid hydrogen sedans. This event was hosted in part by Jay Leno, whose autograph now appears on a reprint of an article on HEC’s efforts at the Sparhawk Mill in Yarmouth. Ed Begley, Jr., at the time an EV-1 driver, and Dennis Weaver, a strong hydrogen advocate, were on hand, too. On the technical side BWM, in partnership with Linde, brought some of Germany’s finest hydrogen engineers and thinkers to the event to present their latest ideas. And, yes, the bi-fuel (switch from hydrogen to gasoline and back “on the fly”) V-12 sedans were very impressive, too.

2006 HEC’s Rick Smith authored  “The Impact on “Green” Hydrogen of the 2005 National Energy Policy Act”  for Peter Hoffman’s nationally distributed Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Letter.

2006 In collaboration with the Chewonki Foundation, and supported by the Maine Technology Institute and Maine Renewable Resources Matching Fund, HEC installed what we think was the first publically accessible solar-powered high-pressure hydrogen fuel cell system in the United States. The system used solar panels to power an electrolyser that took hydrogen from water and stored it in seven standard 2600 psi tanks. On days when Chewonki’s Sustainability Center lost grid power, the hydrogen was fed into a 3kW PEM fuel cell to provide power for the building’s critical systems. The project manager, former HEC president Paul Faulstich, brought together an enormous number of local companies and individuals who volunteered more than $200,000 in their time to obtain state and local permits and to generally make the project happen. 

2007 Then HEC board member, Dr. David Dvorak, is named a US. Fulbright Scholar and spends a year in Iceland working in hydrogen energy educational development. He has rturned to Iceland every year since and keeps HEC abreast of Iceland’s advanced hydrogen energy economy developments. He is presently Interim Chair and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maine in Orono and teaches Thermodynamics, Fluid Mechanics and Fuel Cell Science and Technology.

2008 Supported by a second MTI award. HEC developed software to analyze the profitability of wind-powered electrolysis systems and to assist future developers in preparing financial pro formas. That software has since been enhanced to be more generally applicable to any renewable power source.

2008 In collaboration with the US Department of Energy through Steve Linnell, an HEC board member, then Clean Cities Coordinator for the State of Maine and Director of Transportation and Energy Planning at the Greater Portland Council of Governments, HEC hosted nine technical teams from German, Japanese, Korean and US car companies. They brought eleven hydrogen vehicles for  a day with the general public at Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth and a half day at Ft. Allen in Portland to kick off a Cross Country Hydrogen Road Tour sponsored by the nine automakers, the U.S. Department of Energy, the California Fuel Cell Partnership, the National Hydrogen Association, and the Department of Transportation. Our own Sen. Olympia Snowe drove the first hydrogen vehicle across the starting line.

2009  HEC was an invited guest presenter on two panels at the National Hydrogen Association Annual Meeting in Columbia, South Carolina.

2010 HEC hosts SunHydro’s presentation to the Portland business community at the University of Southern Maine contemporaneously with SunHydro’s opening New England’s first solar electrolysis hydrogen vehicle fill station in Wallingford CT.   

2012-2014   HEC was an invited guest presenter at the Greater Washington (DC) Region Clean Cities Coalition Alternative Fuels & Advanced Technology Vehicles Exposition. This event led directly to HEC’s seeking and obtaining a US Department of Energy Clean Cities subcontract administered by Maine Clean Communities to identify impediments to  installing re-charging and re-fueling infrastructure for electric, bio-diesel, natural gas, propane and hydrogen vehicles. HEC’s final report was published January 31, 2015.

2014   As reported by former HEC President Kay Mann in Green Energy, HEC hosted a ride-and-drive event to demonstrate a Hyundai Tucson fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) and a Kia Soul electric vehicle (EV) in Monument Square.  The Hyundai Motor Group brought these cars to Maine (for the first time) so that officials, agency and NGO personnel and the key people who influence energy, emissions and transportation policy in this state can see that the vehicles are comparable to many current gasoline and diesel vehicles in performance and utility and to become familiar with the advantages of the technology. A lively Q&A at the Portland Public Library followed the ride-and-drive.

2010 -2015 In 2010 HEC was an invited guest presenter at an event for members of the hydrogen and fuel cell manufacturing industry in New England co-sponsored by the Northeast Energy & Commerce Association (NECA) and Connecticut Center for Advanced Technologies (CCAT). This event led directly to HEC’s seeking and obtaining a continuing US Small Business Association subcontract to assist in increasing the number of jobs in the hydrogen and fuel cell supply chain in a seven state region. Headed by CCAT, the project’s work can be followed at , the Northeast Electrochemical Storage Cluster. 

2015 HEC participated in an H2USA financial subcommittee meeting on assessing opportunities for investors in opening hydrogen vehicle fill stations in the Washington DC to Paortland ME corridor.

2015  As in many past years HEC brought demonstrartons and presentation to Maine Engineers Week and the Common Ground Fair, and participated in NEESC sponsored “meet and greet” events for northern New England companies to meet original hydrogen equipment and fuel cell manufacturing companies seeking to expand their supply chain. This year’s event focused on electrical storage technologies and featured a presentation by Toyota announcing the public availability of its Mirai fuel cell electric four door sedans. 

2015 Former Plug Power CTO and H2Pump CEO Glenn Eisman joins HEC’s Board of Directors. Glenn is a Peer Review Panelist at the Department of Energy’s Annual Merit Review (AMR) and a member of the National Academy of Sciences Committee for Review of the Research Program of the U.S. DRIVE Partnership, this year in Phase 5. Glenn is also an adjunct professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in materials science and at Union Graduate College in engineering.