Another First for a Connecticut Fuel Cell Maker

Running on biogas from a water treatment plant, an array will produce carbon-free electricity

2 min read
Another First for a Connecticut Fuel Cell Maker

Several years ago, Fuel Cell Energy of Danbury, Conn., got our attention with news it would supply South Korea's leading independent power producer with 25.6 MW of fuel cell power plants over a ten year period. Now Fuel Cell Energy is getting our attention again, with a press release this week announcing it will install a 2.8 MW fuel cell plant at a water treatment facility in San Bernardino County, California, where the generating plant will run on biogas from the facility and produce electricity without emitting a significant amount of carbon or much in the way of pollutants (photo, above).

The fuel cell plant, from Fuel Cell Energy's DFC3000 line, is being sold to project developer and investor Anaergia, a renewable-energy-from-waste company in Burlington, Ontario,  which will sell power and heat from the plant to California's Inland Empire Utilities Agency, under a 20-year purchase agreement. The agency is not allowed to emit the biogas generated in water treatment directly into the atmosphere, and flaring it would release carbon dioxide and pollutants. So using the biogas as the feedstock for a fuel cell array is a very nearly ideal solution, from an environmental point of view.

This approach to handling biogas from water treatment helps California meet its renewable portfolio standards and qualifies the project for certain financial advantages, as a public-private enterprise.

This isn't all from Fuel Cell Energy. Today, the company announced that plans are being finalized for a 58. 8 MW fuel cell power plant in South Korea, which will be the world’s largest stationary fuel cell generating facility; it will “utilize ultra-clean and efficient fuel cell power plants sold by POSCO Energy [Fuel Cell Energy's utility partner in Korea],  based on [the Connecticut company's] designs and fuel cell components." Yesterday the company said it would be entering the second phase of a carbon-capture-and-sequestration project, as part of a U.S. Department of Energy program.

In the project, says a company press release, "the exhaust of a coal fired plant is directed to the air intake of a DFC power plant, which separates and concentrates the CO2 in the exhaust for commercial use or sequestration. Another side reaction that occurs when the fuel cell is used in this application is the destruction of some of the nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions in coal plant streams as the exhaust passes through the fuel cell. This reduces the cost of NOx removal equipment for coal-fired power plant operators."

It is all good news for Fuel Cell Energy and for the future of power producing stationary fuels cells generally.

The Conversation (0)
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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