Local hydrogen production company makes clean energy a gas
By Jason Webber
Stepping into the machine-filled offices of Millenium Reign Energy feels like entering a mad scientist lab from a 50s B-movie. But to Chris McWhinney the only thing “mad” is the world’s continuing dependence upon fossil fuels. And he’s had enough.
That’s where the Englewood-based business comes in.
McWhinney and his business partner/chief science officer Dave Erbaugh just might be the two men who can finally turn mainstream, average Americans on to clean, non-polluting transportation. Together, these two techies have created products that produce hydrogen — the element that powers those fuel cell vehicles you’ve been hearing so much about but have never seen on the road. The reason you’ve never seen them is simple: auto and energy companies have not figured out how to — or don’t want to — make hydrogen accessible.
“Right now, it’s the chicken and the egg situation,” said McWhinney from behind his desk. “The car companies have the cars ready, but they can’t sell them because there’s no place to fill them up. Oil companies are not going to put in hydrogen stations because they want to sell oil. We solve the problem by building a fueling station where the hydrogen is cleanly produced on site. Our product can produce it, compress it, store it, and dispense it.”
The road to this elemental business was first paved in the late 90s when McWhinney, a native of Eaton, was running a financial services firm and hired Erbaugh as one of his employees. Erbaugh introduced McWhinney to a process called “water electrolysis,” in which the elements of water are broken down and separated, thus producing hydrogen and oxygen. Erbaugh also demonstrated how hydrogen could be used as a clean form of fuel, which really impressed McWhinney.
“I started thinking about the reasons Dave was giving me as to why people weren’t using hydrogen instead of gasoline, when hydrogen could be made by simple water and electricity,” said McWhinney. “The space shuttles were powered by hydrogen. I wondered why we weren’t harnessing that kind of power.”
During this time, McWhinney formulated his idea for what would eventually become Millennium Reign Energy’s trademark product — a hydrogen generator powered solely by wind turbines and solar panels. While the amateur scientist was excited about the prospects of hydrogen production, he didn’t immediately begin building large generators. Erbaugh, weary of the financial sector, left McWhinney’s employ while McWhinney continued operating his successful business.
But after September 11, everything changed. McWhinney suddenly found himself losing large amounts of money due to the freefalling stock market and dwindling economy. The timing couldn’t have been worse, as he had just bought a home. He knew he had to do something. And fast. As he pondered his options, something literally fell into his lap that changed his life.
“One day a mailman came in here delivering the mail and this magazine fell out of his arms and onto my desk,” said McWhinney, gesturing to a framed copy of Personal Finance Magazine hanging on the wall. Bearing a cover story titled “The World’s Last Barrel of Oil.” McWhinney was stunned by what he read.
“The article said that if someone could figure out how to change the world from a fossil fuel-based economy to a hydrogen-based economy, it would be one of the biggest things in history,” said McWhinney. “And I started thinking back years ago to when Dave and I were having conversations about hydrogen production.”
Now passionately inspired, McWhinney began researching how to build a completely clean hydrogen production system. Assisted by two of his employees, who he said “were literally rocket scientists from Wright-Pat,” McWhinney soon applied for his first patent. On the same day he dropped the patent application into the mailbox, kismet intervened yet again.
“I was in Eaton just randomly on that day I mailed in the patent, and I stopped into this wings place and there’s Dave. I haven’t seen the guy in 13 years and suddenly he’s there. So we literally believe that God has his hand in this venture.”
With Erbaugh back in the fold, Millennium Reign Energy began building hydrogen generators and other clean energy components. They scored an early big break when they were given a sizeable grant by Brookville-based Dull Homestead, which serves as the environmental arm of the Dayton International Peace Museum. The museum asked them to build a hydrogen display on the property and the result was Millennium Reign’s first hydrogen production and fueling station — all completely powered by solar panels and wind turbines.
While this fully operational hydrogen fueling station sits in Brookville, it is certainly not going unused. According to McWhinney, they are talking with a major auto company that may be granting Millennium Energy use of one of their experimental fuel cell vehicles. They are also in talks with a farm equipment manufacturer and forklift manufacturer that are experimenting with fuel cell vehicles.
In the midst of these developments, McWhinney and Erbaugh remain focused on what they believe is Millennium Reign’s most important priority — educating as many citizens about hydrogen energy as possible. The company manufactures junior-sized hydrogen production units that they sell to schools around Ohio, which come with a full science-based curriculum. So far, they have sold the units to 15 schools around Ohio, including University of Dayton and Wright State University. They also have a patent pending in both the U.S. and European Union.
As the need for non-fossil fuel based energy sources grows greater and greater, Millennium Reign stands ready to power the world — and anticipates doing so.
“In the future, we can see Millennium Reign Energy centers located all over America. Fuel cell technology is very important to our world’s future.”
For more information on Millennium Reign Energy, visit www.residentialhydrogenpower.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Jason Webber at firstname.lastname@example.org.