Three entities tied to hydrogen economy would receive $3.6 million annually under Gov. Sanford's budget

Source:John Spencer-Herald Journal
Original at Fuel Cell Works

Three separate entities tied to a so-called hydrogen economy -- and South Carolina's place in it -- would receive more than $3.6 million annually under Gov. Mark Sanford's proposed budget.

Most of it is new money.

The recommendation elevates the importance Columbia places on hydrogen and propels this state into an international race.

The governor's budget earmarks $2 million a year for the International Center for Automotive Research (ICAR) in Greenville. Another $1 million would be funneled to the University of South Carolina's hydrogen fuel cell research program based in Columbia. And the state's newly formed Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance would get nearly $368,000 annually.

That alliance was launched Friday through the state Department of Commerce and ties together virtually every hydrogen player in South Carolina.

"These funds will essentially help in coordinating and focusing our research assets that we have across the state on projects that will have a real national impact," said Chris Przirembel, Clemson University's vice president of research and economic development.

"It's tangible evidence that the governor recognizes this initiative has significant potential for economic development."

The Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance was borne out of past studies and coalitions, and happened with the backing of this state's congressional delegation.

It links the University of South Carolina, Clemson, S.C. State University, and the Savannah River National Laboratory and the new Center for Hydrogen Research, both in Aiken. The idea was to create a part-marketing/part-education overseeing body for commercial and research-based hydrogen initiatives.

The proposed funding in Sanford's budget would, in part, pay for the group to hire an executive director and administrative assistant. Sanford also included about $81,000 time for equipment.

"We are not the only ones to have thought about hydrogen at all," said David Bodde, Clemson's innovation and public policy director at ICAR. "This is a world-wide race to put the technology in place to found the hydrogen economy. And we are one of the strong contenders in that competition. But we've got to win it."

California, Ohio and New York, among other states, have invested millions into various hydrogen initiatives.

Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer called the governor's recommendations "a first step."

A hydrogen economy brings with it a list of problems yet to be solved.

Current research focuses on hydrogen generation, for instance, and hydrogen storage.

ICAR's role will be to move that research from the labs to the marketplace, Przirembel said.

About $209 million has gone into that project, with about one-quarter of those funds coming from BMW and $25 million from the state.

Przirembel predicts the center's 250 acres will be fully populated in 15 to 20 years.

In the meantime, the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance will work to get the word out about South Carolina, Chairman Fred Humes said.

"All of the answers, and all of the good things that we're going to do are not known yet," he said. "But what we do know is that within the state -- from ICAR all the way down to S.C. State -- is that we have the ability to meet the needs not only of the automotive industry, but also stationary requirements.

"And we're going to make the nation and the world know about it."

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