In an unlikely move for a US utility company, a Connecticut utility has signed an agreement with a power company on the east coast to build a massive fuel cell park in Bridgeport, Connecticut, utilising fuel cells produced by FuelCell Energy.
Will the lower prices of natural gas encourage the building of additional fuel cell parks? FuelCell Energy last week declared an agreement with Dominion Power in which the power company had planned to put up one of the biggest US fuel cell projects.
Dominion will own the fuel cell farm, although the power will be sold to Connecticut Light and Power Company. The fuel cells provided by FuelCell Energy will produce about 14.9 MW or power 15,000 homes from its five fuel cells of 2.8 MW each.
It was an unlikely move because fewer US power companies or utilities are interested in purchasing fuel cell power presently. Power from fuel cells is rather more expensive than power obtained from more affordable fossil fuel-powered power plants. However, the agreement between Connecticut Light and Power and Dominion stipulates that the utility is to purchase the power at a lower fixed rate over 15 years. Also, natural gas will be used as the fuel in the fuel cells, owing to their present low prices.
Maybe the combination of these newer purchasing plans and using the affordable natural gas will result in more fuel cell production. Bloom Energy, a new fuel cell company, also uses purchase agreements over a period of time to sell its fuel cell energy.
The Connecticut fuel cell farm will be constructed on 1.7 acres of land in Brideport with the installation of the first fuel cells beginning next summer. The project is scheduled to be fully functional come end of 2013. FuelCell Energy calculates that apart from providing 160 jobs and supporting the state’s renewable energy policies, the deal will also result in a profit of $125 million, of which $69 million will be from services and $56 million from hardware sales.
Another FuelCell deal is the sale of a 11.2 MW fuel cell project to South Korean power company Korean Power Corporation (KEPCO) in Daegu City. Bloom Enery also has a reported fuel cell deal of 30 MW with Delmarva Power.
Tech companies are also actively utilising fuel cells to provide power for their data centers. The leaders in this group include Apple, which has a massive fuel cell project in North Carolina (the size of which has just been doubled), eBay which is following in Apple’s lead, and Microsoft which is trying out the technology.