Rolls-Royce Fuel Cell Systems said Monday it will center its global fuel-cell research and development in Jackson Township, Ohio, expanding both operations and physical presence at Stark State College of Technology.

Rolls-Royce Fuel Cell Systems said Monday it will center its global fuel-cell research and development in Jackson Township, expanding both operations and physical presence at Stark State College of Technology.


The company will invest $3 million in processing and testing equipment, and is adding 12,000 square feet to its center on the campus, said CEO Mark Fleiner.


That includes classroom space because Stark State has fuel-cell repair and support courses in its curriculum, said Lisa Patt-McDaniel, director of the state Department of Development.


A fuel cell is a stand-alone generator — almost like a battery — that creates power from an electrochemical reaction. Fuel cells are expected to save money, cut down on use of fossil fuels such as coal and reduce reliance on foreign oil, along with cutting the harmful emissions that come with burning fossil fuels.


Rolls-Royce is developing large-scale systems here, where it established its North American headquarters at Stark State’s Fuel Cell Prototyping Center in 2006.


Amid challenging economic times in Ohio, the national and the world, “the collaboration between Stark State and Rolls-Royce is advancing technology and education,” said Gov. Ted Strickland. At the campus, people “are starting to do the jobs of the future today.”


The growth of Rolls-Royce here is a result of both political parties, at all levels, working with private enterprise, Strickland said. “That’s the model that I would like to see pursued in other areas of our economy.


U.S. Rep. John Boccieri, D-Alliance, praised Roll-Royce’s investment, along with the money put into the program by the federal government and Ohio Third Frontier program.


“The amount of alternative energy we are able to produce in this country is only limited by the amount we’re willing to invest,” he said. “It is very, very important that we invest in this alternative energy” because it produces jobs that can’t be outsourced, produces clean energy and reduces dependence on foreign oil.


The challenge for researchers was “eliminating the use of expensive material and the use of expensive fuels,” said Rolls-Royce Fuel Cell Chairman Charles Coltman. The company began studying fuel cells in 1986 and by 1992, decided that solid-oxide fuels cells would be its concentration.


Then, in 2006, Rolls acquired SOFCo, a solid-oxide fuel-cell operation that was developed in Alliance at Babcock & Wilcox Co.


“We have to create an electrical system that is affordable” and no more expensive than electricity today, he said.


Fleiner said the company will expand  what it already does here. The main focus was research, but now will look at other technologies and pilot production. The addition will bring in more jobs, but the company isn’t announcing how many engineers, scientists and technicians might be needed, he said.


The Repository (Canton, Ohio)