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Fuel Cell Technology Advances In Ohio

Fuel Cell gathering
Tim Rudell
2017 Ohio Fuel Cell Symposium

Since the 1970s, fuel cells have been regarded in the energy world as the next big thing. But the technology wasn’t ready. Now, with 40 years of research and development, some say it’s time has come. 

The 2017 Ohio Fuel Cell Symposium in Lorain this past week drew from across the country. Organizer Pat Valente, executive director of the Ohio Fuel Cell Coalition, says Ohio is one of four fuel-cell technology exchange centers in the U.S. And Ohio is known for something that is a hot topic in the industry. "We work together and exchange information to lower the cost an increase the reliability of fuel cells. 'Supply chain’ is a key component of that.  So this was definitely a supply chain oriented conference.”

Andrew Thomas
Credit Tim Rudell / WKSU
Andrew Thomas is executive in residence, Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University

Andrew Thomas of Levin College’s Energy Policy Center at Cleveland State University says supply- chain strength may bring fuel-cell- related economic development to Ohio.

“We could be not only a leader in making parts for fuel cell cars and busses, but also in the chemical industry sides.”

He says the abundance of gas from Ohio’s Utica shale factors into that supply-chain equation as well. 

Director Sunita Satyapal, the head of the Energy Department’s Office of Fuel Cell Technologies, also attended the Lorain symposium.  

Sunita Salyapal, PhD, Direct of the U.S. Department of Energy Fuel Cell Technologies Office

Sunita Satyapal, DOE and Pat Valente OFCC

Sunita Satyapal, DOE and Pat Valente OFCC
Credit TIm Rudell / WKSU
Sunita Satyapal of the DOE and Pat Valente of the Ohio Fuel Cell Coalition

“This is a really exciting time for hydrogen fuel cells.  We have for the first time, commercial fuel cell cars on the road.  We’re seeing an uptick in the bus application.  We have forklifts, backup power units, and stationary power units.  And so I think there’s huge potential and Ohio has significant share of the supply chain base.” 

And, Satyapal says, northeast Ohio is in the forefront of rolling out fuel cell technology, noting that SARTA, the bus service for the Canton area, now has the third largest fleet of fuel-cell vehicles in the country.