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Palm Springs Seeking To Become ‘Hydrogen Capital’

PALM SPRINGS – The first fueling station for hydrogen-powered cars on Interstate 10 could be built as part of an effort to make Palm Springs the “hydrogen capital” of the United States, city officials announced Thursday.

All that’s needed are hydrogen-powered cars to use the filling station, and an electrolyzer to make the hydrogen.

Wintec Energy of Palm Springs — which operates many of those wind turbines that line the entrance of the Coachella Valley — will donate land for the hydrogen filling station and electricity to produce the hydrogen. Since the power will come from wind, rather than coal- or natural gas-fired generators, the hydrogen would be a truly “green” fuel source, officials said.

“We have everything we need, the wind and the sun, here in Palm Springs to be the leader in producing hydrogen … we just need the infrastructure,” said Mayor Steve Pougnet at a news conference under Wintec’s wind turbines.

Wintec President Fred Noble said the company will donate the land and electricity, but someone else will have to provide the electolyzer — a device that can create hydrogen fuel out of water.

The device and fueling station would cost about $1 million, Noble said.

Noble said Wintec already has the technology in place to produce hydrogen, because the company made the fuel from 1999 until about 2004, when the U.S. Department of Energy took back its electrolyzer.

“The technology is here, it’s all here if the United States would like to take it,” Pougnet said.

The world’s first sustainable hydrogen-powered sedan — the BMW Hydrogen 7 — was on display at the news conference.

The BMW, which is one of 20 in the United States, can run on either hydrogen or gasoline, said Jim Ryan, a spokesman for BMW’s clean energy Hydrogen 7 program. The car is not in mass production because of a lack of infrastructure and fueling stations.

“What we’re trying to do is expose the cars to show that it can be done, that we need an infrastructure for hydrogen refueling and we need renewable energy for it to be part of the whole cycle,” Ryan said.

He said environmentally conscious celebrities including Hilary Swank, Pierce Brosnan, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are driving it right now.

“It truly is a sensation,” Ryan said.

BMW officials have been traveling around the country to urge cities to build the infrastructure needed to support the hydrogen-powered cars. Ryan said the country needs to harness the potential of cities like Palm Springs that have renewable energy resources such as wind and sunlight.

“Cities like Palm Springs are the cities that are going to be providing energy for the surrounding region,” Ryan said.

The fueling station would be a first step toward Palm Springs creating a hydrogen industry in the desert, Pougnet said.

He said he wants to help make Palm Springs the “hydrogen capital” of the United States.

“If we become the hydrogen producing capital … that creates a whole new industry that will generate jobs,” he said.

He said the College of the Desert could create programs to train technicians and engineers to work in the hydrogen producing industry.

The mayor said the city is working through a Clean Tech Task Force to help create “green” jobs in Palm Springs.

“Our natural resources here in the desert make Palm Springs the ideal spot for creating hydrogen and potentially hundreds of green jobs,” Pougnet said.

The task force will present a master plan for sustainability to the city council in April, said city spokeswoman Amy Blaisdell.

KESQ News Team

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