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US Energy secretary praises fuel cell project

17 March 2003 – US Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham last week congratulated FuelCell Energy Inc., one of the Energy Department’s longstanding research partners, for its successful installation of a hydrogen-powered fuel cell in downtown Los Angeles.

“The Los Angeles fuel cell is the culmination of one of our most productive technology partnerships, a joint development effort between the Energy Department and FuelCell Energy that spans more than a quarter century,” said Secretary Abraham. “Now, because of this partnership, the citizens of Los Angeles are seeing a preview of our energy future – clean, efficient power generated from hydrogen by innovative technology.”

Secretary Abraham issued his congratulations today to coincide with the formal dedication of a commercial fuel cell power plant at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s downtown headquarters. The fuel cell went online last month and is now sending 250-kilowatts of clean electricity – enough to serve about 250 homes – to the city’s power grid.

Fuel cells are rapidly gaining ground as one of the most promising energy technologies for the 21st century. President Bush singled out fuel cells as one of the ways to reduce greenhouse gases and meet his Clear Skies environmental goals. Most recently in his state-of-the-union address, he called for a new effort to develop hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles.

The fuel cell now producing power in downtown Los Angeles is the first of a new generation of commercial fuel cell plants that can be linked to power grids to supply electricity for office buildings, hospitals, factories, and residential complexes. Because it generates almost no pollution and runs virtually silently, the fuel cell is likely to be ideal for heavily congested urban areas that need new sources of electric power.

“I also want to commend the City of Los Angeles and its Department of Water and Power for their willingness to be on the leading edge of tomorrow’s technology,” Abraham said. “The fuel cell not only brings a new source of power to the city, it shows how investing in new energy systems can lead to a cleaner, healthier urban environment.”

FuelCell Energy’s power plant creates hydrogen from natural gas inside the fuel cell, then combines the hydrogen with oxygen in a battery-like electrochemical reaction to generate electricity. Because no fuels are burned, the process is one of the cleanest ways to generate electricity from natural gas. Each 250-kilowatt fuel cell reduces air pollutants to levels equivalent to taking 120 cars off the road. The reduction in carbon dioxide emissions compared to the average fossil fuel power plant is the same as planting 160 acres of trees.

The Energy Department’s Office of Fossil Energy issued its first research contract to FuelCell Energy in 1976, six years after the Danbury, Conn. firm was founded under its original name of Energy Research Corporation.

The technology evolved from the first experimental laboratory test unit, which generated one watt, to today’s 250,000-watt system — the Direct FuelCell(r) Power Plant or DFC300A — that FuelCell Energy is now offering for commercial sale. Over the 27-year development program, the federal government invested more than $200 million in the advanced energy technology.

Last month, the California Energy Commission certified the DFC300A for grid interconnection under the state’s “Rule 21” standard. Rule 21 specifies standard requirements for “distributed” power generators – that is, power generators located at points along the grid close to where the power is consumed. The DFC300A is the largest fuel cell power plant to receive this certification.