Fuel Cells Assuring Power for Mission-Critical Industries

In the past year, fuel cells have been installed at data centers and other industries that rely on constant quality power.

As the public depends increasingly on wireless technology for financial, corporate and personal transactions, a secure and reliable infrastructure to ensure seamless operation is more important than ever. With resiliency becoming a top priority for businesses and municipalities around the country, fuel cells are becoming a go-to technology to provide quality, assured power – increasing efficiency and reliability while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Power outages, caused by extreme weather coupled with an aging and overextended electric grid cause up to $150 billion in economic losses per year in the United States alone. Many industries rely on constant power, and even a minute of lost electricity can be exceptionally costly and damaging to system operations and integrity.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are about 3 million data centers in the United States, consuming 100 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year and comprising more than two percent of all U.S. electricity use. The Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA), the trade association for the fuel cell and hydrogen energy industry, estimates that there are now at least 16 data centers in the U.S. powered by more than 23 megawatt (MW) of fuel cells for primary power. Customers include: Apple, CenturyLink, Chevron, eBay, Fujitsu and NTT America. The number of installations and MWs increases dramatically when factoring other businesses relying on fuel cells to provide backup power such as banks, telecommunication networks, hospitals, biotechnology labs, company headquarters and government agencies.

In the last year, several new customers have joined the ranks:

On November 6, Microsoft dedicated its new Data Plant in Cheyenne, Wyoming, powered by a 300 kW FuelCell Energy fuel cell. The system is powered by renewable biogas produced at the Dry Creek Water Reclamation Facility and the excess electricity will be delivered back to the wastewater treatment plant.

On November 14, global financial services company Morgan Stanley unveiled its new 250 kW Bloom Energy fuel cell at its 750,000 Sq. Ft. Purchase, New York, headquarters facility. The system is coupled with a solar array, and will provide constant base load power to the facility, as well as grid-independent electricity to power portions of the building's critical load during grid outages.

In May 2014, the Department of Defense (DOD) installed a 1.6 MW Bloom Energy fuel cell system at the National Security Administration (NSA) Campus in Fort Meade, Maryland. This campus houses 20,000 employees as well as one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world. Tasked with global monitoring, decoding and data analysis, NSA also guards national networks and information technology systems from cyber attacks.

Verizon, a long time fuel cell customer, has powered its Garden City, New York, headquarters complex with a 1.4 MW fuel cell system since 2005. In 2014, the company has invested even more in the technology, and now operates more than 9.6 MW of fuel cells at facilities around the country, including data centers in San Jose and Torrance, California, and Elmsford, New York.

In October 2014, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) awarded $2.2 million to the University of Bridgeport (UB) to install a 1.4 MW FuelCell Energy fuel cell as part of a microgrid to power campus buildings including a dining hall, recreation center, student center, police station and two residence halls. The UB buildings can serve as an emergency shelter during power outages.

Hospitals, medical research laboratories and supply companies are another growing fuel cell customer market. Backup power is critical, with operating and emergency rooms, vital machines and instruments, computers, refrigeration for medicine, blood and critical experiments and research, all demanding seamless, uninterrupted power. Fuel cells offer a quiet, low-emission alternative to diesel generators and are currently operating in hospitals in California, Connecticut and New York. The most recent customers include Sutter Santa Rosa Hospital (375 kW Bloom Energy fuel cell), Chino Valley Medical Center (600 kW Bloom Energy fuel cell) and an upcoming installation announced at the University of California, Irvine, Medical Center (1.4 MW FuelCell Energy fuel cell system). Corporate customers include Kaiser Permanente (4.3 MW at seven sites in California), BD, Life Technologies and Medtronics, all with Bloom Energy fuel cell systems.

Investing in reliability isn't just a U.S. trend. In June 2014, Bloom Energy Japan, a joint venture between Bloom Energy and SoftBank, installed its second fuel cell at SoftBank's headquarters at the Tokyo Shiodome Building in Tokyo, Japan. The 200-kW fuel cell provides 14% of the building's overall electricity needs and the electricity generated by the fuel cell is also being used for the Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations installed in the underground parking garage of the building, and can also be directed to streetlights and public power outlets in the case of an emergency.

For more information about any of these news items, or about fuel cell and hydrogen technologies in general, please visit us online at www.fchea.org. In addition to the website, Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association staff and industry experts are available for interviews and background information.


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