FuelCell Energy’s 2.8 MW Biogas Plant Powers Wastewater Facility

FuelCell Energy and Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA) have brought online a 2.8 MW fuel cell power plant to provide almost all of the baseload power need of a wastewater facility in southern California.

The plant converts waste biogas generated at the Regional Plant 1 Facility into electricity and heat in a combined heat and power configuration that is carbon neutral, FuelCell Energy says. The heat from the fuel cell plant is supplied to the anaerobic digester. The biogas produced by the digester is then cleaned and used to fuel the power plant.

Using the on-site biogas as opposed to using directed biogas out of a pipeline makes the setup more economical and energy efficient, according to the company. The virtual absence of pollutants from the fuel cell power generation process removes future clean air regulatory actions as a risk factor. The CHP configuration also cuts fuel costs and emissions by eliminating the need to generate heat from another source, FuelCell Energy says.

On-site wind and solar arrays installed by IEUA provide the rest of the facility’s power needs.

The fuel cell power plant is owned by UTS Bioenergy/Anaergia, a project developer and investor. The electricity and heat will be sold to IEUA under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

IEUA serves about 850,000 residents in San Bernardino County, California. The utility agency’s energy management plan sets a target of becoming grid independent by 2020.

In March, FuelCell Energy and Air Products announced they are working to develop fuel cell power plants that can simultaneously produce hydrogen, Environmental Leader reported. The two companies are already working together on a three-year hydrogen production project in California, which began in 2011. Under subcontract to Air Products, FuelCell Energy is operating a DFC power plant at an Orange County Sanitation District wastewater treatment facility near Los Angeles.

Pike Research’s Fuel Cells Annual Report 2012 says the industry has expanded at a rapid pace, posting a compound annual growth of 83 percent from 2009 to 2011. The report forecasts the fuel cell industry — including all applications in the stationary, portable and transport sectors — will reach $15.7 billion by 2017.

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