Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Study Session

Wednesday, May 02, 2001

May 2, 2001 - 1:00 p.m.
Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street

Mayor DeBoer called the meeting to order at 1:04 p.m.

Councilors present: Laws, Reid, Hartzell, Hanson, and Morrison were present. Councilor Fine was absent.
Staff present: City Administrator Greg Scoles, Administrative Services Director Dick Wanderschied, Fire Chief Keith Woodley, and Director of Electric Pete Lovrovich.

1. Discussion of the viability of Fuel Cells
Lovrovich provided information to the council explaining fuel cells, including the US Space Program's interest as a practical generator from the 1960s. Handouts were given to the council outlining the use of fuel cells, including a diagram on how they work. The fuel cell was developed in 1839. It is a battery that can be refueled with gasoline, methane, ethanol, or hydrogen to make electrical current. Fuel cells do not burn fuel, but create electrical current through a chemical reaction. They are more efficient than other gas-powered generators and do not produce noise or air pollution. They can stand alone, making them a wise choice for rural power. Fuel cells are expensive, few are being produced, and they depend on ongoing technology to ensure their economic viability. A residential unit would cost $25,000, but the price is coming down quickly. Two associated issues are reliability of fuel sources and disposal of exhaust byproducts. Lovrovich explained how the three current substations could benefit from the networking of fuel cells. Presently, fuel cells cannot be considered "green power," but they will in the near future. Lovrovich encouraged the council to consider allowing the City to embrace this technology.

Wanderschied explained he has been biased regarding fuel cells because the Oregon Legislature passed a bill that added fuel cells at the last moment, which was sponsored by the gas company. He felt the first generation fuel cells were not a renewable resource because they use hydrocarbons. An ideal for the future would be to use wood waste from the forests to produce ethanol for use in fuel cells. Ideally all vehicles will utilize fuel cell technology, and when they are not in use they could be plugged into the power grid. It was explained that BPA is willing to offset the cost of these units in order to reduce the dependency on their grid. A combination of conservation and alternative power sources would help to shape the load required to run the city. BPA has agreed to allow Ashland to be a test site for fuel cells. Another viable option is solar power, which could be utilized on the hill across the freeway from Ashland.

Lovrovich noted that some of the fuel cells have experienced melting plastic due to high temperatures. This led to a recall of ten units and a redesign before testing continued. Neither the Underwriter's Laboratory, nor any other rating agency, has listed the fuel cell as a new technology. As a result, a fire protection engineer would need to certify the unit, which would add to the cost. Fuel cells are currently utilizing methanol, which is a Class 1 flammable liquid, and must meet fire code requirements for installation.

2. Traffic Enforcement
Rescheduled for another meeting.

Meeting was adjourned at 1:55 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Barbara Christensen, City Recorder/Treasurer

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