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August 2013

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The Daily Courier, Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Fuel cells the energy source of the future

Kelowna could become the centre of a revolution in power generation if local company can capitalize on new technology

By STEVE MacNAULL
The Daily Courier

Kelowna is poised to be the fuel cell capital of Canada. "When people ask: 'Why Kelowna?' I tell them: Why not Kelowna," said Stuart Gray, vice-president of Global Energy Innovations, the company commercializing the latest in fuel cell technology units.

"We can have a fuel cell assembly plant in the Kelowna area that could become the size Western Star was."

Western Star was the truck manufacturer on Enterprise Way that used to be the city's biggest employer, with over
1,000 workers, before parent company Freightliner moved everything to Portland, Ore.

This story starts in Flint, Mich., where the head of the mechanical engineering department at Kettering University — Joel Berry — developed a new type of fuel cell that utilizes readily-available natural gas, propane or biofuel to create clean and efficient electric power.

In past, fuel cells used hydrogen and oxygen to generate energy.

However, because hydrogen isn't easily accessible, previous fuel cell technology was limited. "My goal was to create a robust technology that can be commercialized for widespread global use," Berry said on a recent visit to the Global Energy Innovations office in Kelowna.dr berry-stuart gray-dallas morin

Berry's fuel cells have been featured in stories on NBC-TV and The Wall Street Journal.

He set up Global Energy Innovations in Flint as a company separate from the university to start that
commercialization.

His invention has been tested over the last few years and is now ramping up to go into production.

The first factory will be in Flint, but with the Global Energy Innvovations office being set up in Kelowna, Gray wants to see manufacturing locally as well.

"We see the fuel cells being 70-per-cent completed in Flint and then sent up here for final assembly for Canadian distribution and sale to customers around the world," he said.

"We'll need a 30,000-square-foot factory and start with about 100 employees and build from there."

Gray is now looking for that factory location and has been in discussions with both Westbank First Nation and natural gas and electric utility FortisBC for possible partnerships.

A fuel cell is basically a black metal box with electronic circuitry inside that uses the chosen fuel (natural gas, methane propane or biofuel) to start a chemical reaction that converts the fuel to electrial power.

There are no moving parts and no combustion of fuel as there is in a furnace, generator or power plant.

A fuel cell or cells can be hooked up to a natural gas line or any other fuel supply and placed anywhere to power anything from a single family home to a whole community.

Fuel cells come in different sizes.

The two-kilowatt unit measuring four feet by four feet by three feet can be used as back-up or primary power for a single-family home.

The 100-kilowatt unit isn't that much bigger at six feet by six feet by eight feet, but packs a lot more punch and can power 10,000 to 15,000 homes, an entire apartment or office highrise, shopping centre, hospital or factory.

The 100-kilowatt units can also be stacked together to provide even more electricity for more users.gei fuel cell image

"In Canada, the market for fuel cells is companies that have drilling rigs that are currently using dirty and expensive diesel generators," said Global's Kelowna-based business development director Dallas Morin.

"They could also be used in oil and gas operations up north or in remote or Native communities that don't have cheap and reliable electricity. Internationally, the market is huge because reliable electricity is needed for everything from single-family homes to entire communities in developing parts of China, India and Africa."

Gray, the son of Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray, was most recently an alternative energy consultant and Morin has a
background in real estate investing in the U.S.

To finance Global's fuel cell commercialization, Gray has arranged for publicly traded company Suja Minerals (SJML on the over-the-counter NASDAQ bulletin board) to acquire Global Energy Innovations.

Shortly, the name of the publicly-traded company will become Global Energy Innovations (symbol: GEI).

So far, $800,000 has been raised and the goal is $15 million over the next year.

Stock is currently changing hands in the 50 to 60 cent range, but is expected to increase as the fuel cell commercialization amps up.

Check out GEIGlobal.com.

You are here: Home News & Events Fuel cell research continuing to develop in Kettering's incubator
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Fuel cell research continuing to develop in Kettering's incubator Print E-mail

by Beata Mostafavi | The Flint Journal
Tuesday August 26, 2008, 8:24 PM

Fuel Cell Research

John W. Adkisson | The Flint Journal

Antonio Reis tests a fuel cell apparatus while working for Global Energy Innovations to research fuel cell technologies Tuesday at Kettering University. Global Energy Innovations is the first company to research fuel cells in Kettering's new Fuel Cell and Advanced Technologies Commercialization incubator. "It's good that Kettering's getting on board," said Reis. "I think Kettering's doing a good job of helping our country reach the goal of hydrogen and fuel cells as being a part of our energy plan."

FLINT, Michigan -- In a basement lab of the Mott Engineering and Science Center at Kettering University, Andrew Snyder and Antonio Reis test a fuel cell that could someday help power diesel trucks. The engineers are working full time for Global Energy Innovations -- the first company to do fuel cell research in Kettering's one-year-old Fuel Cell and Advanced Technologies Commercialization Incubator. "The fuel cell incubator is giving us a place to do this research," said Snyder, 23, a Kettering alum. "I think the incubator is giving Flint a better image in terms of taking a step towards a greener future." GEI, a Kettering-run spin-off company, marks what some Kettering officials say is a progressive step for getting on the ground floor of fuel cell research here. The hope is that the incubator, part of Kettering's fuel cell center, will recruit new and emerging technologies and companies.

It's part of a bigger picture goal to expand Genesee County's technology-based business community and spur new jobs and economic growth in the area. On a recent afternoon, Snyder and Reis tested the third fuel cell they have designed so far for GEI's project. By later this year, they will present a prototype of how a regular engine could be replaced with a fuel cell, which would make electricity more efficiently and reduce emissions. It could be commercialized and used to support energy needs or back-up power. Hydrogen fuel cells convert oxygen and hydrogen into water to produce electricity. Snyder said the primary target for this type of technology is the trucking industry but could be branched out to other uses, including mobile homes and boats. "It's a more efficient process," he said. "I personally think efficiency is a step in the right direction of replacing fossil fuels."

Administrators say this type of cutting edge research gives Kettering a role in making fuel cells and hydrogen become a part of the country's energy plan. K. Joel Berry, director for the Center for Fuel Cell Systems and Powertrain Integration -- in which the incubator is housed -- hopes more businesses make use of the incubator space and resources in the future.

"The entire thrust of the proposal for this three years ago was that Kettering could spur economic development for mid-Michigan through the integration of education and technology," he said. "Our goal at Kettering is to encourage more student spin-off companies and faculty spin-off companies. Hopefully those companies will grow in areas surrounding Kettering and stay in Flint and stay in Michigan."

Meanwhile, the fuel cell center has had major research programs since it opened in 2005, including ones sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Defense. The center has also sponsored programs to educate pre-college students about sustainability, fuel cells, wind power and solar energy. "The center is moving towards its goals in terms of education, research and economic development," Berry said. "Those are the three things it was formed to do."