America's future economy being built in Aiken County?

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Sunday, July 30, 2011

AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. -- It's technology that made history in Aiken County.

"What you have here is a fuel cell in the bottom, and you have a hydrogen storage tank at the top, and this is made to directly replace a battery pack forklift," said Ted Motyka, Hydrogen Program manager for the Savannah River National Laboratory at SRS.

It's a battery that runs on hydrogen to power a simple forklift. It was used for the first time in an industrial park setting in Graniteville. Now, it's a technology being used all over the United States.

"This is apparently cost savings already for a lot of companies," he said.

He says the batteries charged in two minutes rather than about 10 hours. That's how long a normal one would take. He says it's just another example of how the Center for Hydrogen Research is changing the energy game.

"When it comes to hydrogen, there is nobody anywhere that has the capability that we have in hydrogen programs," said Fred Humes, director emeritus of the Economic Development Partnership of South Carolina.

He was instrumental in creating the center at the the Savannah River Research Campus at Savannah River Site. He says the center is now advancing research in hydrogen power, which burns cleanly, and we'll never run out of it.

That's not only good for this area, but he says it's good for the country as a whole.

"We will make a significant contribution to energy independence in this country through the use of hydrogen. Aiken's right in the middle of it," he said.

By making the country better, he says this area will become better economically, too.

"Any jobs that we bring to town is not only in Aiken County but in surrounding counties," Humes said.

That's good news for S.C. Rep. J. Roland Smith, R-Aiken, and possibly South Carolina's double-digit unemployment rate.

"We can have our unemployment numbers down in the 4 and 5 percent ratio," he said.

As for Humes, he believes which ever nation invests in renewable energy will be the superpower for years to come. He says that's why what they're doing out there is so important.

Of course, he says we may be decades away from seeing and feeling the full impact of it, but the work being done right now is to make sure that the future is bright for Aiken County and the United States as a whole.

He says hydrogen is the perfect step toward energy independence: We won't be buying oil from people who don't really like us anymore.


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