STARS Technology Corporation (“STARS”), a Tri-Cities startup, announced an investment round from local investors to assist with deploying its first protype hydrogen generator for commercial operation. STARS was founded in 2017 to commercialize a portfolio of cutting-edge hydrogen production technologies licensed from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). Fuse fund, a made up of local community minded investors based in Richland, Washington, led the financing round at $150K and is the first institutional investor in STARS. Fuse worked with other local investors to raise over $500K in total.
The market for hydrogen is expected to grow exponentially over the next few decades driven by the wide adoption of fuel cells in a new class of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). Fuel cells produce electricity via a hydrogen based chemical reaction and are an ideal alternative to batteries where the weight and/or recharging time of batteries are problematic, given a fuel cell weighs a fraction of an equivalent battery pack and can be refueled in minutes, akin to gasoline powered vehicles. As the nation transforms to electric propulsion, it is expected that at least 30% of the transportation sector will utilize fuel cells for electricity. Applications include cars routinely driven long distances, constantly on the go delivery vehicles, long haul trucking, mass transit and even ships and aircraft.
The advanced STARS hydrogen generator unit operates on a combination of natural gas, water and electricity, incorporating additively-manufactured, microchannel reactors and heat exchangers for highly efficient operation. The units are compact, occupying a small footprint, and modular, enabling their placement on the natural gas grid to deliver affordable hydrogen – at costs below the equivalent use of gasoline – at filling stations and elsewhere wherever hydrogen is needed.
STARS’ first hydrogen generator will be deployed next month by Southern California Gas Company, the nation’s largest natural gas utility, at the SunLine Transit Agency in Thousand Palms, CA . Fed with renewable natural gas, this first commercial demonstration will produce clean hydrogen – meeting the new Federal Clean Hydrogen Standard – for Sunline’s fuel cell buses. SoCalGas also announced a partnership last week with Ford Motor Company earlier this month to demonstrate a fleet of Ford F550 SuperDuty Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Trucks.
Director of Commercialization at PNNL, Christina Lomasney commented “We applaud the work by Bob Wegeng and his team at STARS in translating cutting-edge, taxpayer-funded, PNNL research into economic impact. The STARS team are pioneers in the realization of a viable clean hydrogen economy. It is gratifying to see the local venture ecosystem – led by Fuse fund – bringing support to our home-grown entrepreneurs and their visions for a better future.”
Hydrogen has been recognized by many as the most viable solution to large scale decarbonization of the heavy lift transportation industry . The momentum is growing for hydrogen fuel cell deployments, with the Federal Government recently passing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill that included $8 billion for regional Hydrogen Hubs and the Inflation Reduction Act which carried about $370 billion in subsidies and credits for clean energy investment in the United States. STARS is uniquely poised to deliver a scalable and cost-competitive technology solution to US and global markets.