Published in The Rebel Yell issue 04/16/2007
The Las Vegas Valley Water District and UNLV’s College of Engineering and Center for Energy Research celebrated the grand opening of the Hydrogen Fueling Station Friday at the Las Vegas Valley Water District.
The theme of the opening centered on what this station means to the community and the nation and the partnerships that made this station possible.
“This project is just one example of the Water District’s commitment to becoming a leader in incorporating sustainable practices into all aspects of its operations,” said Richard Wimmer, LVVWD deputy general manager. “Our goal is to become a 100 percent alternative fueled fleet by 2015.”
There are now two hydrogen fueling stations in the Las Vegas area, but this station is the first one of its kind. The LVVWD’s hydrogen fueling station manufactures its own hydrogen, whereas the other station cannot produce its own, so it must have the hydrogen shipped in.
In order to manufacture hydrogen, the LVVWD’s fueling station uses solar panels to collect energy from the sun. Then, through electrolysis, hydrogen is removed from water that is then stored and used as fuel.
The partnerships LVVWD has worked with throughout this project have made the opening of this fueling station possible, and this was greatly emphasized at the opening.
A grant from the United States Department of Energy (DOE) funded a large part of the fueling station. However, 13 public and private agencies also contributed.
Both Wimmer and Dr. Robert Boehm, director of the mechanical engineering department and head of the Center for Energy Research, thanked many of their partners, including, Proton Energy, Nevada Power, Hydrogen Solar Air and the DOE with special thanks to Senator Harry Reid.
The opening was very exciting for the staff and students of UNLV’s College of Engineering. There were about 10 students who have worked on this project, ranging from undergraduates to doctoral students, Dr. Boehm said.
The staff and students have not only been working on opening the LVVWD’s hydrogen fueling station, they have also worked on modifying vehicles which were showcased at the opening and will now be able to use the fueling station.
The UNLV students and staff have now produced two fully working vehicles. The first one, which was completed about six months ago, is a cart, [much like the ones driving around UNLV] that was modified into a fuel cell vehicle. The second vehicle the students and staff finished mid-January looks like a dune buggy and was modified to have an internal combustion engine.
Fuel cell vehicles create power through converting hydrogen and oxygen into water, which produces electricity. Whereas internal combustion vehicles trap gasoline and air in a confined chamber, which produces pressure and again creates water to produce electricity.
“Both types of vehicles are very positive for our environment,” Boehm said. The vehicles that use hydrogen to power them emit only water vapors into the air, which is one reason why “[hydrogen] is an area of great potential for the future.”
Because of the positive effects of hydrogen-powered vehicles, the LVVWD and UNLV are not done working yet. They are now starting a modification of a full-size, V-8 Ford pickup which is projected to be finished by the end of 2007, and plans to modify a standard car in 2008 are in the works.
Wimmer hopes that in the next eight years he will see more hydrogen fueling stations on street corners instead of gas stations and hopes the LVVWD’s fueling station will serve as a model for the future.
“Two fueling stations are not enough for the entire community,” Wimmer said. “We still have more work to do.”