A huge fuel cell park planned for the power grid in Connecticut

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Will rock bottom natural gas prices help get more fuel cell parks built? Last week FuelCell Energy announced that it has scored a deal to sell its fuel cells to power company Dominion Power, which will build one of the largest fuel cell projects in the U.S. The fuel cell farm, which will be owned by Dominion but will sell power to utility Connecticut Light and Power Company, will use five 2.8 MW fuel cells from FuelCell Energy and will be 14.9 MW in size, or provide enough power for 15,000 homes.

The move is unusual in that there’s few power companies and utilities buying fuel cell power in the U.S. at this point. Fuel cell power tends to be more expensive than centralized power from power plants that use low cost fossil fuels. But the deal between Dominion and the utility is a power purchase agreement over 15 years, so Connecticut Light and Power will buy the power over a decade and a half at a fixed low rate. The fuel cells in the project will also use natural gas as the fuel, and natural gas prices are really low right now.

Perhaps the combo of new financing models and cheap natural gas will lead to an era of more and more fuel cell getting put into the ground. Fuel cell startup Bloom Energy also sells fuel cell energy using power purchase agreements over long periods of time.

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The fuel cell farm in Connecticut will be built in the city of Bridgeport on 1.7 acres of land and the first fuel cells will start to be installed in the Summer of 2013. The project is supposed to be operational by the end of 2013. FuelCell Energy says it will generate $125 million with the deal, including $56 million from selling the hardware and $69 million in services, and the project will also contribute to the state’s renewable energy mandates, and provide 160 jobs.

FuelCell Energy also sold a 11.2 MW fuel cell project project to Korean power producer Korean Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) in Daegu City, South Korea. Bloom Energy has a planned 30 MW fuel cell deal with Delmarva Power.

Internet companies have been as active as utilities, when it comes to using fuel cells to power their data centers. Apple is building a huge fuel cell farm in North Carolina (of which it just doubled the size), eBay is building one, too, and Microsoft is also experimenting with the technology.

Images courtesy of FuelCell Energy.

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