The Department of Energy has earmarked $41.9 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the development of fuel cell technology. The goal is to create manufacturing and maintenance jobs for Americans who have been laid off from automotive factories and the like.
Coincidentally, the announcement came right after Michigan’s approval of $300 million in tax credits to convince battery and energy storage companies to prop up the state’s deflated economy. The companies that have agreed to set up shop there have the potential to bring 6,600 new jobs to the region. With most of their manufacturing facilities still located in the U.S., fuel cells and batteries have stolen the cleantech spotlight — at least for now.
Fuel cells are also popular because they save money on the consumer end as well — allowing more energy to be stored and used efficiently. In a public statement, the DOE said the $41.9 million will “support immediate deployment of nearly 1,000 fuel cell systems for emergency backup power and material handling applications (e.g., forklifts). Some of the funds will also go toward testing cells used to heat and power homes and small businesses.
The 1,000 systems in question are divided between 13 projects across 10 states. Each will receive its own government grant. For example, in Arkansas, batteries will be replaced with fuel cell systems in a fleet of 35 FedEx electric lift trucks. Anheuser-Busch will do the same in 23 electric lift trucks in Colorado. And in Virginia, Sprint Nextel will use cell fuel systems to provide backup power to its communication network used by 911 call centers and emergency responders. The idea is that success of any or all of these projects will beget more federal funding and raise the profile of fuel cells in the private sector.