Wind-To-Hydrogen A Winner On Long Island

Distributed wind energy projects don’t always work out as planned (we present the 3-percent-capacity-factor Lordstown, Ohio, turbines). But well-planned projects can come through as advertised – even when Mother Nature throws a curve ball at ‘em – and fulfill a valuable niche function.

Case in point: The Hempstead, N.Y., wind turbine. We reported on its installation back in January 2012, and now a report from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Powering America initiative shows the 100-kilowatt turbine produced at the high end of its expected range in its first year of operation. It did so despite losing a month of operation due to Hurricane Sandy and other grid-related issues.

hempstead wind turbine

Hempstead’s 100-kilowatt wind turbine (image via Aegis Wind)

The Hempstead installation is more interesting than your typical distributed wind project because it was undertaken specifically to provide clean power to an electrolyzer that produces hydrogen for a vehicle fueling station in the Long Island city.

Hempstead had been buying about 200,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year off the grid to create clean-burning hydrogen – grid power that came mostly from fossil fuels, kind of defeating the purpose of the hydrogen vehicle program. And the power was expensive: At 20.2 cents per kWh, electricity in the New York City-Northern New Jersey-Long Island region is 56.6 percent more expensive than the national average of 12.9 cents/kWh [PDF].

When the $615,000 turbine went in, the forecast was that it would produce between 180,000 and 240,00 kWh per year; it ended up producing 225,000 kWh in Year 1. That’s a 25.7 percent capacity factor by our calculation, quite respectable for a project of this scale, especially given the unavoidable disruptions.

The fuel station itself in Hempstead has several elements, providing pure hydrogen, compressed natural gas (CNG) or a blend of hydrogen and compressed natural gas (HCNG). Toyota has provided two fuel cell hybrid vehicles valued at around $100,000 for use by the town. The blended hydrogen/compressed natural gas fuels a shuttle bus that’s used for a senior program, and a Ford E450 shuttle bus, supplied by CNG company Clean Vehicle Solutions, was “upfitted” to run on natural gas and calibrated to run on the HCNG fuel.

Tara Schneider Moran, a conservation biologist for the Department of Conservation & Waterways in Hempstead, New York, told Wind Powering America that town officials – happy about the $40,000 a year in energy production the turbine has brought – are now looking into building a microgrid to make use of the turbine’s energy production capabilities during grid power interruptions.

More information about the Hempstead wind turbine is available in a paper [PDF] by Aegis Wind, a partner in the project.

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

    • Jerry Graf

      What is good about a $40,000 annual return on a $615,000 investment? It’s not as pathetic as some wind projects,but it is nowhere near anything anyone would call a reasonable return……and this project has the abnormally high cost of electricity in New York going for it.

      If $615,000 had been spent on 0.5 MW of CCGT generation capacity, this then could have generated roughly 18 times the electricity and, at the same time, reduced annual CO2 emissions roughly 9 times more effectively than the wind turbine; if used to replace coal fired generation.

      • Pete Danko

        The good is emissions-free generation.

        • Jerry Graf

          First, I have no problem with the Hydrogen and CNG development as alternative fuels. I don’t know enough to comment on this project, but these fuels in general have merit and I support development efforts.
          My issue is with the waste of money on the wind turbine. The fact that it is said to be “zero emissions” is meaningless.
          As I pointed out, if our goal is to reduce CO2 emissions, and other pollution emissions; we could have done that far more effectively by investing the same money in Combined Cycle Gas Turbine generation technology, and produced far more reliable and continuous electricity.
          The 0.10 MW wind turbine makes 200 MWh of non-continuous unreliable electricity per year. If we assume that this entirely replaces 200 MWh of coal fired generation (which it realistically
          cannot do) this eliminates about 200,000 kg of CO2 emissions annually. If we had used the same taxpayer money to buy roughly 0.5 MW of CCGT generating capacity (rather than lining the pockets of a wind turbine snake oil salesman) we could be directly replacing roughly 3,720 MWh of coal fired electricity per year, and subsequently reducing annual CO2 emissions by more than 1,800,000 kg. Which is better eliminating 200,000 kg of CO2, or eliminating 1,800,000 kg of CO2 ??

    • Jerry Graf

      From the Aegis Wind PDF link:
      …….”The overall cost of the turbine itself, including installation, was about $615,000. An additional cost of $150,000 associated with electrical and marine bulkheading was attributed to private sector, in-house work provided by town personnel……….The expenses for the turbine, however, were drawn from a United States Department of Energy grant for $4.6 million, secured by the town of Hempstead.”…….

      I see that the real cost was $765,000; but it’s OK…. it was paid for with that special “free money” from the US Treasury.