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Construction Begins on Fuel Cell at Cal State San Bernardino

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SAN BERNARDINO – Installation of a 1.4-megawatt utility-owned fuel cell has begun at Cal State San Bernardino.

A Direct Fuel Cell® DFC1500 power plant will be installed adjacent to the campus’s central plant to provide electricity to the utility grid and waste heat to the campus at no cost to the university.

“The fuel cell is expected to be operational in early 2012,” said Tony Simpson, senior director of facilities services at Cal State San Bernardino. “Electricity generated by the fuel cell will go straight into the Edison grid, and the waste heat it produces will be utilized to preheat the campus heating system, resulting in an estimated annual savings of $120,000 from avoided natural gas costs.”

Fuel cells have several advantages. The combined heat and power configuration will reduce the campus’s carbon footprint by lessening reliance on the high temperature hot water generators currently in operation. The fuel cell will continue to use natural gas to generate ultra-clean electricity through an electrochemical reaction, but because there is no combustion, virtually zero pollutants are emitted.

Additionally, the fuel cell power generation process is highly efficient, generating more power from a given unit of fuel and lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to combustion-based power sources in a similar size range. In a combined heat and power configuration, DFC power plants can achieve efficiencies up to 90 percent, depending on the application.

The distributed generation attribute of fuel cells also enables power-generating capacity at the point of use without a commensurate investment in the transmission and distribution grid, improving energy security by reducing the need to transport electricity from remote sources.

“CSUSB is clearly committed to being a leader toward greener energy alternatives, and this is just another example of our numerous efforts to maximize alternative energy sources and further reduce the university’s carbon footprint,” Simpson said.

Last year, Cal State San Bernardino installed a 3.5-acre photovoltaic ground-mounted solar “farm” on land north of the university’s police station, and mounted additional solar panels on the roof of the College of Education building. CSUSB previously installed solar panels on the roofs of the Physical Education building and the Health and Physical Education complex in 2007.

And this year, the university installed two wind turbines on campus to harness the energy generated by the energy winds. When all systems are operational, the university will receive approximately 26.6 percent of its annual needs from clean and renewable sources.

In the spring of 2010, the California Public Utilities Commission authorized Southern California Edison and another California utility to pursue utility-owned fuel cell installations at California universities, recognizing fuel cells as preferred resources because of clean fossil fuel generation and distributed generation.

Cal State San Bernardino will be the fifth California university with a DFC installation, representing eight megawatts in total power generation capacity. This DFC power plant will be manufactured by Fuel Cell Energy Inc. and owned by SCE. In conjunction with the installation of the power plant, the university is expected to incorporate fuel cell technology into its curriculum to educate students and the public about the benefits of fuel cell power generation. The fuel cell is expected to be operational in April 2012.