Wallace Avenue Sustainable Hydrogen Project

Maine Oxy-Acetylene Supply Co, long-time friend of the Hydrogen Energy Center and valuable participant in the Chewonki Renewable Hydrogen Project, recently signed a five year lease with the Hydrogen Energy Center for our use of a section of land behind their retail store in South Portland. The Hydrogen Energy Center has studied the land and surrounding area for insight as to how to utilize the land and the association with Maine Oxy to further its agenda of creating hydrogen for sale using renewable forms of energy, and doing so to the advantage of the local economy.

The Hydrogen Energy Center is studying three energy methods for hydrogen production at the site on Wallace Avenue. Each of the options would either produce hydrogen directly, or DC electricity to power a high pressure electrolyzer, producing clean and fossil fuel free hydrogen for sale to the industrial gas market. There is a ready market in the area for this commodity, and the Hydrogen Energy Center plans on increasing the demand for hydrogen by using clean hydrogen to power many devices now using gasoline or diesel fuel. The three options for producing hydrogen presently under consideration for the Wallace Avenue site are solar photovoltaic arrays, wind turbines, and conversion of aluminum scrap to hydrogen.

The first option, DC electricity from solar arrays, is a possibility because there is a large area of land included in the lease that could be cleared and populated with ground based single axis orienting cells. Another solar possibility would be roof mounted and non-moving thin film PV material. This could be applied over large flat roofs on nearby buildings that have huge, otherwise empty and non-productive areas begging to be covered with energy collecting devices. New thin film technology owned by Konarka is being explored for its applicability in this case.

The second option for local renewable power is a wind turbine installed on the site. It is unknown at this time if there is a sufficient wind resource available at this location, so the Hydrogen Energy Center is currently gathering historical wind data. The Hydrogen Energy Center is evaluating the viability of conducting a site survey for wind conditions, with the aid of firms specializing in wind data collection. The Hydrogen Energy Center is researching code regulations pertaining to wind generator installations. At present, no prohibitive restraints have come to light that would preclude this alternative.

The third option for producing renewable hydrogen is a recently patented method of converting scrap aluminum into hydrogen and alumina. Hydrogen Energy Center has determined local sources of scrap aluminum, and is waiting to continue negotiations with the Canadian company that holds the patent on the chemical process that produces the hydrogen. That company seems to be very interested in the possibility of setting up a demonstration project in Maine, and continuing negoiations are in process with the Hydrogen Energy Center.

The Hydrogen Energy Center continues to work on the preliminary licensing requirements and project definitions. When basic parameters are established, the Hydrogen Energy Center membership will vote as to the extent of our involvement in the project, much as it did when taking on the Chewonki Renewable Hydrogen Project. Many facets require further study including financing, work force definition, and choice of project partners. Commercial production of renewable hydrogen will be a giant step for Maine's hydrogen economy.