When the Grid Fails: Fuel Cells Provide Backup Power during Disasters

Recognizing the vulnerabilities of grid dependency, organizations are looking at fuel cells as an attractive option for reliable backup power.

(Washington, DC—April 8, 2013) Outages to the U.S. power grid caused by storms and other natural disasters cost an average of $150 billion in economic losses each year. Recognizing the vulnerability of critical infrastructure, companies in a variety of industries—from telecommunications firms and banks to hospitals—are turning to fuel cells to provide an efficient, clean, and most importantly, reliable source of backup power, according to a new case study by Fuel Cells 2000, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC.


"When the Grid Fails: Fuel Cells Power Critical Infrastructure in Disasters" profiles industries that are beginning to adopt fuel cell systems for backup power and examines how the fuel cells performed in recent catastrophic weather events, including Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, and Winter Storm Alfred.

"While diesel generators have frequently failed in disaster situations—at New Orleans hospitals after Hurricane Katrina, for example—the high reliability and flexibility of fuel cell systems makes them extremely well-suited to backup power generation," said Jennifer Gangi, program director of Fuel Cells 2000. "Fuel cell backup systems are already providing businesses with savings from lower maintenance costs and less frequent downtime, as well as the comfort of knowing that critical systems will remain online during disasters."

Fuel cells can operate independently of the power grid, ensuring a continuous supply of electricity for businesses that rely on truly uninterrupted power. They have also demonstrated a higher level of reliability than diesel generators, which are more susceptible to mechanical failures. The report takes an in-depth look at four industries that are shifting toward fuel cell backup power: telecommunications, data centers, grocery and retail, and hospitals and highlights where fuel cells have successfully proven to operate when the grid has gone down. It also lists other sectors and services, including first responders such as police and fire stations and gas stations as sites where fuel cells can and have provided crucial power in times of need.

The full report is available for download at http://www.fuelcells.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Fuel-Cells-in-Storms.pdf

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