By April 6, 2015 Read More →

Washington State Patrol goes green with hydrogen cells for radio towers

Washington State Patrol using hydrogen cells at some agency network towers

By David Wiechnik

Washington State Patrol

Washington State Patrol has replaced lead-acid batteries with hydrogen cells at 15 of the agency’s network radio towers.

When you think law enforcement, “environmentally friendly” doesn’t usually come to mind. The Washington State Patrol is changing that by replacing traditional lead-acid batteries with hydrogen cells at 15 of the agency’s network radio towers across the State.

This is the first step in a wider plan by theWashington State Patrol to begin using alternative energy sources at other communication sites in the near future.

“The transition to the fuel cells was low risk,” saidElectronic Services Division Commander Bob Schwent in a media release.

“It worked well, and we plan to continue working towards the transition to alternate energy sources.”

Quick and efficient communication is key for troopers responding to emergencies.

In the event of a power outage, diesel generators provide mountaintop radio sites with the electricity they need to stay online. The lag between the outage and when the generator powers up could be critical in an emergency.

In the past, large lead-acid battery stacks were used to power the radio towers until the generators could get up and running. The batteries provided electricity to enable a seamless transition from an electrical power source to the generator, but also presented a series of environmental concerns.

Lead-acid batteries have to be replaced and disposed of every five to seven years, and also generated hazardous waste and unnecessary costs.

This is not the case with fuel cells, says Schwent.

They have the same benefits and start up cost as lead-acid batteries, but they also help theWashington State Patrol preserve the environment. 

“The fuel cells are very low maintenance, green, and low cost,” Schwent said.

Eric Denhoff, president and CEO of the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (CHFCA) believes that this change is a natural application for fuel cells.

“In Canada, Ballard Power has both hydrogen and methanol fuel cells being used for backup or primary power for telecommunications installation around the world,” Denhoff said. “Particularly in Asia, Africa, and to a small extent in North America.”

“I heard last year that Denmark and Germany were using fuel cells for emergency response providers telecoms, and also for critical data centre backup power in the event of a situation.”

For the Washington State Patrol ’s purposes, hydrogen fuel cells now provide the same 48 volts of electricity as the previous batteries, don’t need to be continually replaced, and their only byproduct is water.

Other benefits include a more efficient use of space, and little to no maintenance.

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