Hempstead, N.Y., launched the first hydrogen fueling station on Long Island more than two years ago, but it turns out that was just an initial step toward sustainably powering fuel cell vehicles in its fleet. Now Hempstead has added a 100-kilowatt (kW) capacity wind turbine to the mix, giving it the ability to create hydrogen fuel without sucking power from the grid.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) – which funded the $615,000, 121-foot-tall turbine through a Recovery Act grant – Hempstead had been using about 200,000 kilowatt-hours of grid electricity, most of which comes from fossil-fuel sources, to run an electrolyzer to generate hydrogen for the fuel station. In its assessment of the project [PDF], the DOE said the turbine should be able to generate enough electricity to replace that grid-purchased power. And that possibility had the town’s political leadership waxing poetic.

Hempstead, wind to hydrogen
image via Hempstead

“The answer to clean and renewable energy is ‘blowin’ in the wind,’” town Supervisor Kate Murray said in a statement. “This wind turbine is creating renewable energy, saving money, conserving natural resources and building an environmentally responsible legacy for our children and our children’s children.”

Hempstead calls itself a town, but it’s no small burg; it has a population around 750,000. And it has green ambitions that are every bit as large. The wind-to-hydrogen system is just one part of a larger Clean Energy Project at Point Lookout, 35 miles southeast of Midtown Manhattan. There’s also a shellfish nursery powered by a 2.4-kW wind turbine and two 5- kW solar arrays; a 10-kW solar array on the roof of the Administration Building; and a zero-energy solar home built by the New York Institute of Technology.

The fuel station itself has several elements, as well, providing pure hydrogen, compressed natural gas (CNG) or a blend of hydrogen and compressed natural gas (HCNG). Toyota has provided two fuel cell hybrid vehicles valued at around $100,000 for use by the town. The blended hydrogen/compressed natural gas fuels a new shuttle bus that’s used for a senior program, and a Ford E450 shuttle bus, supplied by CNG company Clean Vehicle Solutions, has been “upfitted to run on natural gas and calibrated to run on the HCNG fuel,” according to the town.

toyota fuel cell vehicle, Hempstead
image via Toyota

All that, and Hempstead isn’t done: The town received a total of $4.6 million in grants from the DOE, and has further renewable energy plans unfolding, with the money financing the construction of a “60K (we assume they mean kW) solar field, two solar trackers, a solar-powered carport and a geothermal energy project that will address heating and cooling needs at the town’s Conservation and Waterways facility.”

And while Hempstead seems to be doing just fine on the clean energy front already, it could be in for more support from the state. According to the state’s League of Conservation Voters, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent State of the State speech put new emphasis on clean energy and the environment.

“For too long, New York has sat idly by as its sustainability challenges mounted,” Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement. “Governor Cuomo made a serious commitment to caring for our natural resources, rebuilding vital infrastructure and transitioning to a clean-energy future.”

The league said it was particularly heartened by the governor’s vow to facilitate the growth of wind energy through a new “Energy Highway” that will connect wind farms with population centers, and his commitment to double the amount of solar energy capacity in New York by the end of the year and quadrupling it by 2013 through the NY-Sun Program.