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ARMS/Plug Power: GenSure fuel cell solutions for PTC backup power

Plug Power Inc. offers fuel cell solutions for reliable positive train control (PTC) backup power under the new product brand name GenSure (formerly ReliOn). Automated Railroad Maintenance Systems (ARMS) serves as the railroad distributor and integrator for Plug Power products and services, and has helped introduce the fuel cell concept to the industry, ARMS officials said.

CSX Railroad was the earliest adopter of fuel cell for railroad applications starting in 2009, and today has over 200 24-volt GenSure (ReliOn) hydrogen fuel cell systems deployed, including about 150 for backup power at PTC radio base stations, plus units at numerous signal locations. 

According to ARMS personnel working with the CSX engineers, the railroad’s decision to use fuel cells was primarily due to the fuel cells' ability to start up and operate automatically when needed in a power outage without any human interaction, and to provide three to four weeks of continuous standby power on a single fuel load.

One of BNSF Railway Co.'s remote PTC sites uses a hybrid power solution which includes GenSure (ReliOn) fuel cells, along with solar and wind generated power.

The minimal maintenance requirements, operational safety factors, and positive environmental features were additional benefits that influenced both railroads' decisions to use hydrogen fuel cells.

In March 2016, Plug Power announced the debut of its new branding initiative across their worldwide hydrogen and fuel cell solution platform. That announcement cited future plans, including powering electric drive trains with their fuel cell technology.