The Hawaii Hydrogen Initiative (H(2)I), aims to integrate hydrogen fuel as an essential building block in building a sustainable energy ecosystem in Hawaii. H(2)I is part of an effort to reduce Hawaii’s 90 percent dependence on imported oil by making hydrogen fuel available to all of Oahu’s one million residents by 2015. This will involve installation of 20-25 hydrogen stations at strategic locations around the island.

“Hawaii is on the cutting edge of developing the infrastructure for hydrogen-powered vehicles and adopting the latest clean energy technologies to move our islands toward energy independence and sustainability,” said Richard Lim, acting director of the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. “H(2)I is a unique, innovative partnership that has brought together public, private and community partners to improve the quality of life for our citizens and become a worldwide model.”

Hawaii's Hydrogen Initiative

GM is one of the major partners collaborating on Hawaii’s Hydrogen Initiative to make hydrogen fuel and hydrogen-powered vehicles available to Oahu’s one million residents by 2015. Credit: GM

The initiative is being supported by The Gas Company, LLC (TGC), one of Hawaii’s major utilities, and General Motors (GM). TGC currently produces enough hydrogen fuel to power up to 10,000 fuel cell vehicles and has the capacity to produce much more. GM is recognized as a leader in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. In 2007, GM showcased its fuel cell demonstration fleet of more than 100 vehicles.

In addition to GM and TGC, H(2)I partners include the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism; U.S. Department of Energy (DOE); FuelCell Energy; Aloha Petroleum Ltd; Louis Berger Group; U.S. Pacific Command, supported by the U.S. Pacific Fleet, U.S. Pacific Air Forces, U.S. Army Pacific and U.S. Marine Forces, Pacific; National Renewable Energy Laboratory; the County of Hawaii; University of California – Irvine and the University of Hawaii.

Currently, the partners are evaluating methods by which hydrogen can be distributed around the island through existing natural gas pipelines. They hope to address a long-standing problem in how to cost effectively develop a production and distribution infrastructure.

“In Hawaii, we want to address the proverbial chicken or egg dilemma,” said Charles Freese, executive director of GM Fuel Cell Activities. “There has always been a looming issue over how to ensure that the vehicles and the necessary hydrogen refueling infrastructure are delivered to market at the same time. Our efforts in Hawaii will help us meet that challenge.”

In addition, the partnership is hoping that Hawaii will be a testing ground, so similar infrastructure and production roll-outs could be conducted in other regions.

“Once the key hydrogen infrastructure elements are proven in Hawaii, other states can adopt similar approaches,” Freese explained. “Germany, Japan and Korea are all building hydrogen infrastructures within this same timeframe. The work in Hawaii can provide a template for other regions.”

H(2)I is part of a broader project launched in partnership between the state and the DOE, the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI). The goal is to generate more than 70 percent of Hawaii’s energy through energy efficiency efforts and clean, renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, wave, biofuel and geothermal. Lessons learned in Hawaii, which is so heavily dependent on foreign imports of energy, will be highly informative for the rest of the country as the nation moves toward greater energy sustainability.

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