AIKEN --- Hydrogen fuel is becoming a buzz word in Aiken County, and now this approach to power is making its way to the home.
A partnership of city leaders, a "green" developer, the Aiken Electric Cooperative and others has led to construction of a house that is solar- and hydrogen-powered in the Ridge at Chukker Creek.
The development had already planned for some "net zero" homes -- buildings that use solar panels to boost power, then send electricity back to the power company. This balances the times when power is used so there's no power bill.
Soon after announcing the "net zero" homes at the Ridge at Chukker Creek, officials learned it was possible to also incorporate a hydrogen fuel cell into the "net zero" process. They plan to do so with at least one home at the site and say they hope more will be built as demand grows.
Aiken County gained notice with the opening of a hydrogen fueling station, one of the first on the East Coast.
The Center for Hydrogen Research in Aiken will also have a display this spring involving solar and hydrogen fuel cell technology. Ron Monahan, the developer for the Ridge at Chukker Creek, said having the research center close by played a part in his decision to build his first hydrogen home in Aiken. Mr. Monahan, of Boulder, Colo., said having the hydrogen-powered home will demonstrate another means for energy efficiency. He said the process also causes no carbon footprint, meaning the only output is oxygen.
Mr. Monahan said solar panels will provide energy that will separate oxygen and hydrogen from water. The oxygen will then be released while the hydrogen is captured to further help the solar panels power the home.
Fred Humes, the director of the Center for Hydrogen Research, said the prospect of hydrogen-fueled homes is exciting.
"This could be how many of us power our homes," he said.
Those involved in the recent announcement said they know of just one other home in the country that incorporates a similar technology, but it was an existing home that was retrofitted.
Mr. Monahan said it could take about two months for a ground breaking, and construction could take about eight more months.
He said a regular "net zero" home costs about $40,000 more than a normal home of the same size. He said the cost beyond that to also incorporate hydrogen technology has not yet been determined but that tax incentives could be possible for choosing an energy-efficient home.
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