THE WOODLANDS, Texas, May 22, 2002 — A consortium organized by the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) has announced the successful installation of a 5kW proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell system designed and manufactured by Plug Power. The system will be tested as part of a project to demonstrate the viability of fuel cells as a source of safe, clean and efficient electric power.
“The Plug Power system is the first in the HARC study to be located outdoors,” said Bruce Rauhe, project director of the HARC consortium. “We are reproducing real-world conditions by installing it outside the laboratory on a concrete pad and fueling it with pipeline natural gas.”
The system will operate in parallel to the grid, and HARC will integrate the fuel cell with a separate water heating system to evaluate the system’s combined heat and power (CHP) capabilities. “Operating in a CHP mode will provide a great opportunity to determine true maximum and normal heat recovery conditions and total energy efficiency potential,” Rauhe said. He noted that a substantial amount of data will be collected from external sensors installed by HARC and from internal monitoring supplied and shared by Plug Power.
The HARC consortium, comprised of Southern Company, Texaco Energy Systems Inc., a unit of ChevronTexaco Technology Ventures, and Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development Inc., was created two years ago to demonstrate and analyze promising fuel cell technologies. The group is testing a number of fuel cells to determine how they work both in large and small-scale stationary applications. The consortium is considering issues such as power quality and reliability as well as how fuel cells might be applied to incentive programs that promote emission reductions.
“Projects such as this can help fuel cells evolve as a technology that can contribute to the overall reliability and performance of electricity delivered to residential and commercial customers through the electric power grid,” said Roger Saillant, Plug Power CEO and president. “We look forward to working with members of the consortium to gain a keener understanding of fuel cell applications and integration into building systems as well as market challenges.”
“Southern Company is continuing our commitment to research into technologies that may enhance reliability for our customers and give us options for cleaner ways to generate energy,” said Dr. Charles H. Goodman, senior vice president, research and environmental affairs at Southern Company. “Fuel cells could well be one of those options. Tests such as these being done at HARC improve our knowledge of these emerging technologies and help us answer the question as to whether fuel cells truly are a viable choice.”
A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that combines hydrogen and oxygen from the air to produce electric power without combustion. Hydrogen is derived from a fuel such as natural gas, propane, methanol or gasoline and can also be obtained from the electrolysis of water, stored hydrogen or a hydrogen pipeline. The technology offers several environmental and economic benefits, such as near-zero emissions that are substantially lower than those of conventional coal power generation stations. Other anticipated applications of fuel cells include transportation and automotive applications, portable applications, and distributed power for remote locations. Commercialization of the technology requires characterizing various performance parameters such as operating experience under varying climatic conditions and fuel efficiency.
Created in 1982, HARC is a non-profit organization located in The Woodlands, Texas, that seeks to improve human and ecosystem well being through research and service in energy, life sciences, and the environment. HARC’s Fuel Cell Research and Applications Center was created in July of 1998 in response to a growing demand for clean power generation products.
Plug Power designs, develops and manufactures on-site electric power generation systems utilizing Proton Exchange Membrane fuel cells for stationary applications. Plug Power’s fuel cell systems are expected to be sold globally through GE Fuel Cell Systems, L.L.C. and through DTE Energy Technologies in a four-state territory, which includes Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana. The Company’s headquarters are located in Latham, N.Y., with offices in Washington, D.C. and The Netherlands.
With four million customers and nearly 35,000 megawatts of generating capacity, Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE:SO – News) is the premier super-regional energy company in the Southeast and a leading U.S. producer of electricity. Southern Company owns electric utilities in four states, a fast-growing competitive generation company and an energy services business, as well as fiber optics and wireless communications. The company has traditionally been a leader in the electric utility industry in research and development.
ChevronTexaco Technology Ventures, a unit of ChevronTexaco Corporation, is involved with identifying, developing and commercializing new and emerging technologies and energy systems that promise to play an increasingly important role in the world’s energy mix. Such activities include fuel cells, fuel processing, hydrogen storage, advanced batteries, renewables, and methods of converting solid, liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons into clean liquid fuels. ChevronTexaco Technology Ventures is also a venture investor actively engaged in developing and commercializing innovative energy technologies through internal development, joint ventures and equity investments.
Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development Inc. is a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company and is chartered to develop and apply technology to the entertainment field.