Fuel cell power plant at a wastewater treatment facility

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Fuel Cell Power Plant
by Nicoletta Gentile

Municipal water treatment plants are an ideal application for Direct FuelCell® (DFC®) power plants, which excel at converting waste disposal challenges into value streams of ultra-clean electricity and usable high quality heat. Many municipalities can use anaerobic digesters to efficiently process large.

Only about 10% of America's large scale wastewater treatment plants utilize on-site biogas, literally flushing almost 1,500 MW of renewable fuel cell energy down the drain, which could be used to power over 1.2 million homes.

Because biogas is a renewable energy source, most jurisdictions and governments classify power generation from biogas as carbon-neutral and may offer financial incentives to promote adoption. In addition to being an environmentally friendly method of generating power, fuel cells operating on biogas help municipalities reach their sustainability goals in three ways, by:

› Generating renewable power that is virtually absent of pollutants

› Producing electricity in an environmentally responsible manner classified as carbon-neutral power generation

› Generating both power and heat from the same unit of fuel, which reduces or even eliminates the need to generate heat from a combustion-based boiler, saving costs and reducing emissions

Methane produced in the anaerobic digester is utilized by the fuel cell to generate electrical power for the water treatment plant or other uses. Concurrently, high quality heat from the fuel cell power plant heats the sludge in the digester to facilitate the anaerobic digestion process, which in turn produces the methane utilized by the power plant.

Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA) serves approximately 850,000 residents in a 242 square-mile service area in San Bernardino County, California. IEUA’s energy management plan is focused on maximizing renewable energy, optimizing energy usage, and becoming grid-independent by 2020. Eliminating clean air compliance uncertainty was also a goal, as was avoiding an up-front capital investment in power generation technology.

› A 2.8 megawatt DFC3000 power plant was installed, providing electricity that meets almost all of IEUA’s baseload power needs at one of five IEUA-operated wastewater treatment facilities.

› A private investor owns the plant, selling electricity and heat to IEUA under a long term power purchase agreement (PPA).

› The heat generated by the power plant supports the anaerobic digestion process.

Benefits

› The virtual absence of pollutants from the ultra-clean fuel cell power generation process eliminates the risk of failing to comply with any future changes to clean air regulations.

› On-site baseload power generation supports energy reliability and complements intermittent wind and solar arrays installed by IEUA.

› Renewable and ultra-clean on-site power generation supports the IEUA energy management plan.

› Private capital for this investor-owned power plant is being used to provide public benefits including health benefits resulting from the virtual lack of pollutants that cause smog, and the financial benefits of fixed power costs over the 20-year term of the (PPA).

source: http://www.fuelcellenergy.com

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