World's largest Carbon Neutral Fuel Cell Power Plant
in the design, manufacture and service of ultra-clean, efficient and reliable fuel cell power plants, today announced the dedication and operation of a 2.8 megawatt DFC3000® stationary fuel cell power plant installation at a municipal water treatment facility in California that utilizes renewable biogas as a fuel source. FuelCell Energy, Inc. previously announced the sale of the power plant to Anaergia, Inc., a project developer and investor. Anaergia is selling the electricity and heat to Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA) under a twenty year power purchase agreement. The power plant is an integral and unique on-site fuel cell application to convert biogas, a harmful greenhouse gas, into electricity and usable high quality heat in a carbon-neutral fashion that emits virtually no pollutants.
A dedication event for the fuel cell power plant was held on October 12 at the IEUA facility. IEUA is one of the largest wastewater treatment operators in California and is a leader in adopting sustainability initiatives as it transitions to grid-independence by the year 2020.
“This stationary fuel cell project that uses a renewable fuel source to generate clean power is helping the State of California reach our aggressive renewable portfolio standards,” said Michael Peevey, President, California Public Utilities Commission. “This project illustrates how public/private partnerships are a great model for providing public benefits with private capital.”
“We have adopted the goal of becoming energy self-sufficient by the year 2020 in a manner that meets our aggressive sustainability goals and with competitive economics,” said Thomas Love, General Manager, Inland Empire Utilities Agency. “This fuel cell project, combined with our existing solar and wind installations, is helping us achieve these goals.”
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Reliable on-site power generation from fuel cells combined with the credit profile of
municipalities attracts private capital to fuel cell projects. Anaergia partially funded the purchase of the fuel cell power plant located at IEUA through the issuance of California Municipal Finance Authority Revenue Bonds.
“Setting new standards for environmental leadership with cost effective on-site power generation that is clean and renewable is a replicable model for California and other regions,” said Arun Sharma, President, Anaergia Services. “Anaergia is pleased to be a part of Inland Empire Utilities Authority's renewable energy portfolio and contribute to their goal of energy selfsufficiency by 2020."
IEUA is prohibited from releasing the biogas generated by the wastewater treatment process directly into the atmosphere as it is a harmful greenhouse gas. Flaring the biogas emits pollutants and wastes a potential source of revenue. Using the biogas as a fuel source to generate power converts a waste disposal problem into a revenue stream. Due to the renewable nature of biogas, the power generated by the fuel cell is carbon-neutral.
“This 2.8 megawatt fuel cell power plant is the world’s largest power plant operating on
renewable on-site biogas. Our fuel cell technology is uniquely positioned to provide what other megawatt-class power generation products can’t, which is efficiently converting biogas into continuous power right where the biogas is generated and in a manner that is virtually absent of pollutants,” said Chip Bottone, President and Chief Executive Officer, FuelCell Energy, Inc. “This project is a win for everyone involved, particularly the citizens of California that benefit from privately financed carbon-neutral power generation.”
Direct FuelCell® (DFC®) plants can be located where biogas is generated and directly use the biogas with only minimal cleaning of the gas. Biogas contains humidity, sulfur and CO2. Prior to being used as a fuel source for the Direct FuelCell, the humidity and sulfur must be removed, but the DFC technology does not require the removal of the CO2. This is a cost advantage as pipeline quality biogas, also termed ‘directed biogas,’ must have the CO2 removed prior to being injected in the gas pipeline, which is an energy-intensive process and adds cost.
Fuel cells use an electrochemical process to efficiently generate ultra-clean electricity and high quality heat suitable for generating steam. The absence of combustion avoids the emission of almost any pollutants, virtually eliminating nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SOx) and particulate matter (PM-10). The fuel cell power plant replaces internal-combustion engines so the clean power generation will help IEUA meet the stringent emission regulations issued by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), the local air pollution control agency.
Fuel cells are highly efficient and can achieve efficiencies up to 90 percent when byproduct heat is utilized. The byproduct heat from this power plant will be used to help create the renewable biogas by heating the anaerobic digesters that produce the biogas. High efficiency decreases energy costs and provides more electrical output from the same amount of biogas than less efficient alternatives.
Major move forward for UK’s nascent marine energy sector
Although the industry is small and the technologies are limited, marine-based energy systems look to be taking off as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine” begins grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre.
At around 74 metres long, the turbine single-handedly holds the potential to supply the annual electricity demand to approximately 2,000 homes within the UK and offset 2,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Orbital Marine Power, a privately held Scottish-based company, announced the turbine is set to operate for around 15 years in the waters surrounding Orkney, Scotland, where the 2-megawatt O2 turbine weighing around 680 metric tons will be linked to a local on-land electricity network via a subsea cable.
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Described as a “major milestone for O2” by CEO of Orbital Marine Power Andrew Scott, the turbine will also supply additional power to generate ‘green hydrogen’ through the use of a land-based electrolyser in the hopes it will demonstrate the “decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.”
“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” says Scott in a statement.
The Scottish Government has awarded £3.4 million through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund to support the project’s construction, while public lenders also contributed to the financial requirements of the tidal turbine through the ethical investment platform Abundance Investment.
“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero,” says Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net-Zero, Energy and Transport for the Scottish Government.
“With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy.
“That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years.”
However, Orbital Marine CEO Scott believes there’s potential to commercialise the technology being used in the project with the prospect of working towards more efficient and advanced marine energy projects in the future.
“We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net-zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.”
The UK’s growing marine energy endeavours
This latest tidal turbine project isn’t a first for marine energy in the UK. The Port of London Authority permitted the River Thames to become a temporary home for trials into tidal energy technology and, more recently, a research project spanning the course of a year is set to focus on the potential tidal, wave, and floating wind technology holds for the future efficiency of renewable energy. The research is due to take place off of the Southwest coast of England on the Isles of Scilly