Sommers partners with film industry to test hydrogen generator

A Sommers hydrogen generator

Sommers Generator Systems is piloting a project to supply the film and television industry with emissions-free hydrogen power equipment. 

The HGDWS 165 ST generator looks and performs like a conventional diesel generator. However, it delivers a quiet, mobile, zero-emission and serviceable system. 

H2OnSet, a company that provides film production sets with hydrogen from local producers, approached Sommers to create a generator solution. 

H2OnSet integrates hydrogen production, distribution and use into a turnkey service. They asked Sommers if they would be interested in building a hydrogen powered generator initially for use on TV and film sets. At that time, there was interest, but no marketable product. 

The challenge for hydrogen fuel cells included cost of equipment, the need for peripheral devices and the unknown performance of operating the equipment. McGregor thought they could overcome those. 

“We said, ‘Sure, we can do this’,” explained Sommers President Chris McGregor

The Sommers engineering team, led by Frank Noda, designed a generator using fuel cells, although there was interest, the cost was a factor. It was about 10 times the price of a comparable diesel system. As chance would have it, Sommers was introduced to an engine and hydrogen drive solution manufacturer based in Europe. This led to the opportunity to simplify the process, reduce costs and test efficiencies. 

The result was a 60 Hz 120/208V 165 kW hydrogen generator classified as zero emissions with a smaller footprint. 

“Earlier hydrogen generators were bulky, unconventional looking,” McGregor said. “What we’re building today looks almost identical to what our other generators look like but with almost zero emissions.” 

Sommers will work closely with the engine manufacturer to provide feedback and operational data for future builds for a wide cross section of industries looking for opportunities to reduce their carbon footprint. 

Both aspects appealed to the film industry that want a trailer-mounted unit with easy distribution for fuel and low noise, while significantly reducing any environmental harm. This included SAG-AFTRA members who want the opportunity to work in environmentally friendly sites. 

“They are on a quest to produce movies without carbon impact,” McGregor said.  

According to McGregor, this is just the beginning. 

“These units can be used and parallelled to produce as much clean energy required for any application whether it be standby or prime power.” 

Although production of the hydrogen generator will begin this spring, McGregor has already started fielding inquiries from several industries and applications from across the continent. 

McGregor said the generator will have a big environmental impact on communities. 

“The future needs new ways of power generation,” he said. “Hydrogen has been around for years. Today, it is as safe as any other. We are building these systems.”