Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology Project


Soledad Canyon Road and Whites Canyon Road

City or County Responsible for Project: 

City of Santa Clarita

Award Category: 

Safety or Intelligent Transportation System Projects

Narrative Description Of Your Entry: 

The City of Santa Clarita is located in a wildfire prone area and experiences strong winds. As a result, Southern California Edison over the past few years has initiated more than ten Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) affecting thousands of residents as well as critical City infrastructure such as traffic signals. While the City has equipped nearly all of its 204 traffic signals with battery backup systems, these batteries are designed to keep signals operating for short-term power interruptions lasting a few hours. PSPS events on average have lasted 24 to 48 hours, far exceeding the range of traditional battery backup systems. Due to this limitation, every PSPS event requires hundreds of hours of staff time to coordinate and install portable stop signs and generators at intersections to preserve public safety.
City staff researched alternative power technologies and identified a system that utilizes hydrogen fuel cell technology to keep signals operating for extended power outages. In a fuel cell, hydrogen and oxygen are combined to generate electricity through an electrochemical reaction, not combustion. Soledad Canyon Road and Whites Canyon Road was selected as the first intersection to receive the hydrogen fuel cell backup system. This intersection was chosen because it has been impacted by past PSPS events, is one of the busiest intersections in the City and serves as an important evacuation route to nearby freeways.
One major advantage to the hydrogen fuel cell system over traditional battery systems is runtime. The three hydrogen cylinders installed inside the cabinet housing will provide enough power to keep traffic signals fully operational for 55 hours, exceeding the average duration of a PSPS event. The system is expandable with a capacity to hold up to six hydrogen cylinders providing up to 110 hours of runtime.
With traditional battery backup systems, if a battery gets fully depleted it will no longer hold a charge and the battery must be replaced. This requires signal technicians to constantly monitor battery levels during outages taking vital time away from other duties during PSPS or emergency events. The hydrogen fuel cell system can be fully depleted with no permanent damage and simply requires refilling the hydrogen tanks.
The hydrogen fuel cell system is also a clean energy source. It is certified by the California Air Resources Board as zero emissions and will not pollute the air such as gas/diesel generators do. Noise pollution is also less as fuel cell systems are considerably quieter than gas/diesel generators.
The City is an early adopter to install this type of system dedicated for traffic signals. It will aid in preserving public safety and keeping motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists circulating at critical intersections during extended power outages. The system also enhances safety for Sheriffs and minimizes the need for them to direct traffic during power outages to focus on more critical safety needs.

Submitted by: 

Mike Hennawy


Director of Public Works


City of Santa Clarita


23920 Valencia Boulevard, Suite 304






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