ERC Demonstrating Fuel Cell Power Plant

Issue 8 and Volume 103.

Energy Research Corp.’s headquarters has been powered by a 250 kW Direct Fuel Cell power plant for more than a quarter now, demonstrating the viability of the technology, according to Anders G. Troedson, ABB Automation Power Electronics Division Director.

A 250-kW Direct Cell power plant at Energy Research Corp’s headquarters.
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ABB supplied a 300 kW power conditioning system for the plant, converting the dc current into ac current. ERC, which manufactures fuel cell stacks and the independent power plants they are used in, runs its headquarters on the energy from the in-house demonstration unit and routes the excess power to the local utility grid.

“It’s right outside our window and it’s a joint success, generating over 400,000 kWh since start-up,” said Jerry D. Leitman, ERC president and CEO. ERC recently announced plans for a name change to Fuel Cell Energy Inc.

While fuel cell power plants, built in the 200-250 kW range, are just beginning to find their way into special commercial market applications such as hospitals, industrial buildings and other facilities that require dependable sources of power, manufacturers have been building and testing units, gathering data indicating the technology is extremely dependable. “It is this field testing and use that backs you up going forward,” said Troedson. “Documentation is the proof, and provides ABB the opportunity to work with ERC and others to provide solutions and optimize their electrical package.”

The installation’s maintenance and operating costs will be charted over time. “The per-kWh cost of power remains the driving industry question, with fuel cell generation costs diminishing steadily,” he said. “There simply will be more distributed power generation, with self-contained plants supplying small geographic areas. The energy can be very local, accessible and, through the use of distributed fuel cell power generation plants, we can provide more dependable electricity to the user/consumer.”