A new utility-scale fuel cell system that could potentially power more than 600 homes and produce one megawatt of electricity, is being tested by FirstEnergy and Ballard Power Systems at the former’s Eastlake plant in Ohio.
The companies claim it is the world’s largest proton exchange membrane hydrogen-powered fuel cell, a 54-foot-long unit mounted on a tractor-trailer to give it mobility. The good news: the device produces only heat and water as by-products. Energy is produced from a combination of hydrogen fuel and oxygen from the air.
“Finding new sources of clean, renewable peaking energy is important for meeting our customers’ energy needs and helping us meet increasingly stringent environmental requirements,” said Gary R. Leidich, executive vice president and president of FirstEnergy Generation.
Over the next five years, the system will undergo tests in real-world operating conditions so that the companies can get a better understanding of its capacity to provide generating capacity during peak usage periods between May and September. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) will collaborate with the evaluation of the performance and operating data gathered in that period.
“This fuel cell system has the added benefit of being mobile, so it can provide peaking power when and where it’s needed”, said Mr. Leidich.
The system is comprised of nine fuel cell modules, a compressor compartment that provides air for the fuel cell reaction, an inverter compartment that converts the power from 640-volt direct current to 380-volt alternating current (AC), and a transformer to step up the voltage to 480-volt, three-phase AC power to the electrical system.
“With the increasing interest in clean energy solutions, we are seeing demand for this scalable product across a number of different distributed power generation applications” said Michael Goldstein, Ballard’s chief commercial officer.
Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.