FORT COLLINS - Forklifts at the Anheuser Busch brewery in Fort Collins will soon be powered by fuel cells as part of a $41.9 million demonstration project by the U.S. Department of Energy to test the cells' performance in the real world.
The project, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus package, is designed to accelerate the use of fuel cells in private industry, according to DOE Secretary Steven Chu.
"The investments we're making today will help us build a robust fuel-cell manufacturing industry in the United States," Chu said in a press release. "Developing and deploying the next generation of fuel cells will not only create jobs, it will help our businesses become more energy-efficient and productive. We are laying the foundation for a green-energy economy."
Fuel cells, powered by hydrogen and hydrogen-rich fuels, emit no greenhouse gases.
The Fort Collins A-B brewery is one of 13 projects in 10 states that will receive funding to help get fuel cells into the workplace. The local brewery, the only Colorado project on the list, will receive $1.1 million to convert its fleet of 23 forklifts - also known as lift trucks - from conventional batteries to fuel cells.
Greg Kellerman, A-B corporate spokesman, said details of the agreement with the DOE were still being worked out but he expected the conversion would likely occur "sometime this year."
"The sooner the better, frankly," Kellerman said. "We're interested in getting it going."
As required by the DOE awards, A-B will be matching the $1.1 million of its grant to perform the conversion.
Kellerman said the A-B brewery is the only one of the company's 12 breweries that will be converting its forklift batteries to fuel cells.
"It's a demonstration project for us," he said. "We're hopeful we'll learn from the project and it'll have additional applications for us."
Kellerman said the Fort Collins site was picked because of a strong environmental ethic at the facility. "They are a very active brewery relative to energy efficiency and emission reductions," he said.
In addition, the Colorado Fuel Cell Center, a research center established in 2005 with funding from the Governor's Energy Office, is located at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, not far from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Hydrogen Technologies and Systems Center.
Kellerman said one immediate benefit to A-B will be in no longer having to dispose of the large lead-acid batteries now utilized by the forklifts used primarily to load pallets of beer from the warehouse onto delivery trucks.
Sunita Satyapal, the DOE's hydrogen program manager, defended spending taxpayer money on equipment to benefit private industry as a way to help create a new industry and new jobs.
"Real-world operation will help quantify benefits in terms of cost and performance, as well as carbon and petroleum reductions," she said. "The funding will also stimulate job creation in the fuel-cell manufacturing, installation and support service sectors."
Satyapal said another goal of the program is to give private industry a taste of fuel-cell technology and potentially generate future demand for the cells.
"Once benefits are shown, it is anticipated that the private sector will be more likely to adopt this technology and the increased demand will help drive down costs," she said.
Kellerman said A-B is proud to have its Fort Collins brewery be a testing ground for alternative energy technology.
"I think the reason the DOE's making the funding available is to help companies get information and move forward with fuel-cell technology, and we're excited to be part of that," he said.