The University of Bridgeport and FuelCell Energy, a leading provider of highly efficient and virtually pollutant-free fuel cell power plants, have reached an agreement to generate electricity on campus with a fuel cell that will slash carbon emissions by 7,000 tons a year — equivalent to taking 1,220 vehicles off the road annually.
Under the agreement signed on April 28, FuelCell Energy (FCE) will install, own, and operate the 1.4 megawatt fuel cell power plant next to Wheeler Recreation Center for 12 years and will sell electricity to UB in order to heat and power campus buildings.
UB will save an estimated $3.5 million in energy costs over that time period, according to a cost analysis examined by energy consulting firm van Zelm Engineers.
Specifically, the fuel cell at UB will generate electricity using natural gas and will be connected to the campus power grid. At the same time, the cell’s exhaust heat will generate hot water for Wheeler Recreation Center and its pool, the University Place Apartments, and Schine Hall, where it will offset natural gas consumed in heating and air conditioning in those buildings.
The deal also includes an Academic Collaboration Agreement, under which FCE will work with faculty, staff, and students to track, monitor, and evaluate the fuel cell’s performance. Students will have access to FCE facilities for learning tours and internships opportunities.
“Sustainable and affordable energy is an increasingly important component of the new energy mix at the University of Bridgeport,” said UB President Neil Albert Salonen. “Our Renewable Energy Research Lab evaluates technologies in energy conversion, utilization, and storage in fuel cells, solar, wind, and hybrid systems. This living lab is motivated by the strong need to prepare the next generation of inter-disciplinary engineers who have a comprehensive background in sustainable energy, and this fuel cell installation will help us achieve our goals by enabling us to practice what we teach.”
Since 2008, UB has reduced its energy use and made substantial savings by upgrading the campus electrical grid, installing high-efficiency boilers, insulated roofing systems, energy-efficiency windows, and making LED and induction lighting retrofits throughout campus.
“We are pleased to be providing the University of Bridgeport with an on-site power generation solution that meets their financial returns and sustainability goals and enhances campus energy security,” said Chip Bottone, President and Chief Executive Officer, FuelCell Energy, Inc. “Universities are ideal candidates for our ultra-clean and efficient fuel cell power plants due to their power usage profile that requires baseload power, desire for sustainable power generation, need for energy security, and demand for reliability that on-site power generation provides.”
Fuel cells convert chemical energy from hydrogen-rich fuels, such as renewable bio gas or natural gas, into electrical power and usable high quality heat in an electrochemical process that is virtually absent of pollutants.
Similar to a battery, a fuel cell is comprised of many individual cells that are grouped together to form a fuel cell stack. Each individual cell contains an anode, a cathode, and an electrolyte layer. When clean natural gas or renewable biogas enters the fuel cell stack, it reacts electrochemically with oxygen to produce electric current, heat, and water. While a typical battery has a fixed supply of energy, fuel cells continuously generate electricity as long as fuel is supplied.
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