NYC Metro + Hydrogen Powered Building = Capital of Hydrogen Revolution?


Photo Source: jerryfergusonphotography/CreativeCommons
New York City is known for lots of things - but hydrogen is not one of them...until now. Since 2005, some of the most innovative and largest buildings powered by hydrogen have been built in the area. The two largest hydro-mixed-use buildings in the world are in the area, as well as the very first residential homes ever built. And there are more on the drawing board - a residential building just across the Hudson that will be the largest hydrogen powered residential tower on the planet. Gotham is proven that hydrogen power is not something far in the future, but a reality today. This is a survey of a few projects that are pointing the way for a new approach to energy, infrastructure and green buildings.
Graphic Source: Chambers Design, Inc

Yeah, Chicago has green roofs! Portland and Seattle that have lots of LEED rated projects...but nobody is keeping up with the Big Apple when it comes to hydrogen! More residential, mixed-use and commercial square footage has been constructed in the NYC Metro Area since 2005 than anywhere else in the world!


Photo Source: Kevin Rodgers/U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

The very, very first hydrogen powered home was constructed in Kings Point, Long Island just outside of the city limits of New York City in Nassau County. Built by New York Institute of Technology, it took part of the 2005 Solar Decathlon (sponsored by the U. S. Department of Energy). The house is 800 square feet and is equipped with a solar-hydrogen system that was engineered by the US Merchant Marine Academy. Some of the technologies making the hydrogen power possible include a Proton Energy Systems HOGEN 40RE Electrolyzer, Plug Power GenCore 5 kW Fuel Cell and 54 Sanyo HIT 200 Photovoltaic panels. The electricity generated from the solar panels powers the electrolyzer which in turns creates the hydrogen by splitting the molecules that make water. The hydrogen is then stored in tanks until it is needed.

The first existing house retrofitted for hydrogen in located in East Amwell, New Jersey. It is owned and retrofitted by Mike Strizki. He finished the project in 2006. The hydrogen system is used for his 3,000 square foot home. On a video on YouTube - he points out that though he uses zero conventional energy for the home, he still has modern comforts like a big screen television. The home is equipped with a prototype model that converts energy into hydrogen gas - similar to the Kings Point house. Unlike the Kings Point project, Strizki stores extra hydrogen in about 8 to 10 propane tanks in his backyard. The New York Institute of Technology has a much smaller storage capacity. Throughout the year, the solar panels meet the energy needs of Strizki's house, but when they can't hydrogen fills the void by powering a hydrogen fuel cell. His system costs just around $500,000 to build.

These projects are small in comparison to two other projects in the area: one being in New Haven, CT and the other on Roosevelt Island in the heart of the Upper East Side between Manhattan and Queens.


Photo Source: Becker + Becker

The New Haven project located at 360 State Street takes up the full block facing three streets: State Street, Chapel Street, and Orange Street. The building totals 700,000 square feet and has 500 apartments (including 50 affordable units), grocery store and other retail, parking garage, and an early childhood education center and was developed for around $260 per sq ft - not bad for being the very first hydrogen powered building of its kind...and achieving LEED Platinum status for LEED Neighborhood Development.


Photo Source: Becker + Becker

This project will revitalize a long-underutilized 1.5-acre site in downtown New Haven. It is an easy walk to the New Haven Green and across the street from the State Street train station. The project was started in 2008 and completed in 2010. The fuel cells weigh upward of 60,000 pounds and together are as big as a transfer truck with the ability to provide 400 kilowatts of energy by converting natural gas to hydrogen, and then hydrogen and oxygen into electricity and heat.


Photo Source: Becker + Becker

The other project, called the Octagon, is located at 888 Main Street on Roosevelt Island. It was first completed in 1996, and then retrofitted to be a green, hydrogen powered structure about ten years later. It is a LEED Silver building with 500 apartments, daycare center, exhibition gallery, public ecological park, tennis courts, below-grade parking. Along with the hydrogen energy source, the building includes a 50kw array of solar panels which provides about 5 percent of the energy needed. The Octagon received the largest initial award of New York State Green Building Tax Credits and was recognized in the first New York City Green Buildings Competition with the "Green Apple Award" for leadership in applying sustainable design principles to residential development.


Photo Source: Becker + Becker

Both the Octagon and the 360 State Street were designed and development by Becker + Becker, an architecture firm with offices in CT and NYC. During a telephone interview with Bruce Redman Becker, president of Becker + Becker, he explained that both projects started around the same time, and they weren't sure which would be finished first. The winner could be named the first of its kind on the planet. It was regulatory complications that decided which building won. The company has a three building on the boards for Jersey City - a community across the Hudson River from NYC that could take the title of largest hydrogen powered residential tower in the world.


Photo Source: Becker + Becker

A full-scale regional competition is shaping up in the northeast - and I, for one, think it's a great thing! More developers need to see how hydrogen is an affordable option for high performance buildings...Becker + Becker should be having all the fun. With Connenticut, New Jersey and New York all potentially having a significant claim to hydrogen innovations - it's up to each state to win the race for more innovation. One way that could happen is to create a Tri-State regulatory effort to standardize how extra energy produced by large hydrogen systems are integrated into the existing grid system. For example, when Becker + Becker was building the State Street project, the regulations allowed for net metering but no sub metering...however in the City, the Octagon was able to tap into incentives for sub metering, but the local utility wouldn't allow net metering. If the three states could agree for a standard, it would make the market ripe for installation of much more hydrogen powered buildings at all scales big and small.

All road may lead to Rome, but if you wanna live in a hydrogen powered home or apartment - you'll have to move to New York - when you're in town, I'll give you the tour ;)

More on Hydrogen Powered Stuff:
Hydrogen Community Lolland - the Future is Here
Hydrogen Powered Car Driving the Future
Breakthrough Producing Hydrogen from Water + Sunlight
A2: The Hydrogen-Powered Hypersonic Airliner

Tags: Green Building | New York City

Best of TreeHugger