LIPA to grid-connect 75 fuel cells in demonstration project

WEST BABYLON, N.Y., June 26, 2001 — Under a $7 million program designed to show how fuel cell technology may ultimately generate electricity for residential customers, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) today announced that it will connect 75 fuel cells to its electric grid at its West Babylon substation this summer.

The program is intended to begin identifying and developing the measures and systems needed to facilitate the eventual use of fuel cells operating in parallel with, and contributing to the overall reliability and performance of LIPA’s electrical grid system.

Site planning is underway and construction is expected to start in July. The fuel cells are being manufactured by Plug Power Inc., of Latham, N.Y., and are expected to produce over one million kilowatt hours of electricity over the duration of the program, which is enough to power about 100 average-sized homes.

By connecting the fuel cells directly to the transmission grid, the electricity created by the fuel cells will be distributed to customers through LIPA’s electric transmission and distribution system. It will be the first large-scale use of fuel cells for this purpose in New York State.

The program is being funded through LIPA’s Clean Energy Initiative (CEI). The CEI is a five-year, $170 million program, proposed by Governor Pataki, that is designed, in part, to foster the development and application of clean energy technologies, such as fuel cells, solar, wind generation and geothermal. LIPA’s CEI program also offers 11 energy conservation and load management programs that residential and commercial customers can take advantage of to reduce electric consumption and save money.

“Fuel cells hold great promise, as an environmentally friendly electric generating technology,” said LIPA Chairman Richard M. Kessel. “We need to develop an understanding of how fuel cells can be integrated with our electric grid, and that’s what the project will help identify. In turn, the information and experience gained through this program will help fuel cells continue to evolve as a technology that can be employed by electric utilities as a source of power, and by residential and commercial customers for their own on-site power needs.”

LIPA has previously worked with Plug Power to help advance the development of fuel cell technology. Under a LIPA-financed program, seven fuel cells were field tested at locations around Long Island last year to gain operational experience that was integral to the development of the current generation of fuel cell power systems.

“We appreciate LIPA’s confidence in our company, our people, and our product,” said Plug Power President and Chief Executive Officer Roger Saillant. “This program supports the continuing efforts of Governor George E. Pataki and Chairman Kessel in demonstrating clean energy solutions for Long Island and for New York. We are excited to be part of LIPA’s efforts to meet the increasing energy needs of Long Island.”

“Fuel cells are great for the environment, since they don’t emit harmful pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury or particulates,” said Ashoke Gupta, Senior Economist, Natural Resources Defense Council. “We hope to see a lot of this in the coming years.”

“The exciting aspects of fuel cells are that they are a clean, efficient energy technology that can be tied into the existing power grid,” said Neal Lewis, Executive Director of the L.I. Neighborhood Network. “Long Island has history as a leader and an innovator on environmental issues. It is exciting to see that history continued with this forward-looking project being implemented here.”

The Plug Power fuel cells are being made available to LIPA under the terms of an agreement that includes provision for additional training, engineering services, and technical support to operate and maintain the units. In addition, LIPA and Plug Power will jointly develop the software necessary for remote operation, dispatch and monitoring of the fuel cells to support the future distributed use of fuel cells to support the electric grid.

This project will allow LIPA to complement its other alternative energy efforts as a resource to meet Long Island’s growing demand for electricity, which is increasing at a rate of approximately 3.5 percent, or twice the statewide average.

LIPA owns the retail electric system on Long Island, and provides electric service to nearly 1.1 million customers in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens. LIPA does not provide natural gas service.

Plug Power is a designer and developer of on-site, energy generation systems utilizing proton exchange membrane fuel cells for stationary applications. The Latham, N.Y.-based company was founded in 1997, as a joint venture of DTE Energy Company and Mechanical Technology Incorporated. Plug Power Holland was established in February 2000 as the first European presence of Plug Power. Plug Power’s fuel cell systems for residential and small stationary commercial applications are expected to be sold globally through a joint venture with the General Electric Company, one of the world’s leading suppliers of power generation technology and energy services. DTE Energy Technologies will distribute these units in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana.

SOURCE: Long Island Power Authority