03/08/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

World's Largest Hydrogen-Powered Town Launches in Japan

Light years ahead of the US, some 150 homes in the housing communities in Maebaru City, of southern Japan's Fukuoka Prefecture, are running on hydrogen fuel cells, as part of a pilot project testing the feasibility of such systems for households. The "Fukuoka Hydrogen Town" model project is the beginning of what organizers say will be the largest hydrogen-powered city in the world.

Starting in October 2008, Nippon Oil Corporation and Seibu Gas Energy Co. began installing 150 ENE FARM power generation units in houses across Maebaru. These are 1 kW-class, residential fuel cell co-generation systems, utilizing hydrogen in liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). The systems can cover about 60 percent of a home's power consumption and about 80 percent of its hot water supply.

In total, energy consumption will be reduced by about 30 percent over conventional systems, and carbon dioxide emissions will be cut by up to 30 percent. The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) is subsidizing the effort. By 2015, Nippon Oil hopes to lower the price of its household fuel cell systems to around 500,000 yen [US$5,500] and raise sales to 40,000 units a year.

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