WASHINGTON, DC - The most efficient onsite power
plant in the world - a revolutionary fuel cell-gas turbine "hybrid"
power system - is slated to power one of the federal government's principal
environmental laboratories beginning in 2002, Secretary of Energy Bill
Richardson and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Carol
Browner announced this week.
The new power generator, to be built by the Siemens-Westinghouse Power
Corporation, will be installed at EPA's Environmental Science Center at
Fort Meade, Maryland.
"We plan to make this a showcase energy facility for power efficiency
and environmental cleanliness," said Secretary Richardson. "The
combination of a fuel cell and microturbine is one of the most exciting
new advances coming out of our energy research program. The Fort Meade
project will preview a future of 'good neighbor' power generators that
can be sited at or near the customer."
The high-tech energy plant, combining an all-solid state fuel cell and
a microturbine, will be the largest of its type in the world. Fueled by
natural gas, it will generate 1,000 kilowatts of electricity at nearly
double the efficiencies of conventional power plants and will have the
lowest environmental impact of any power plant using fossil fuel.
This week, the Energy Department and EPA signed a memorandum of understanding
paving the way for the joint agency initiative. The fuel cell-turbine
power system is scheduled to be installed and operating by mid-2002.
The joint DOE-EPA power plant is expected to open the door to an entirely
new way to generate electricity more like a battery than a boiler. Since
there is no combustion, there are virtually none of the traditional pollutants
of a power plant.
For Siemens-Westinghouse Power Corporation, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,
the fuel cell-turbine hybrid will culminate nearly four decades of research
and development. The company sees the Fort Meade system as one of the
final steps before it begins taking commercial orders as early as 2002
and delivering the first commercial systems in 2004.
Cinergy Corp., headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, will operate the power
generator. The power company was created in 1994 from the combination
of the Cincinnati Gas & Electric Company and PSI Energy Inc., the
largest electric utility in Indiana.
The fuel cell-turbine hybrid could be the forerunner of a new class of
distributed power generation, where small power plants are sited near
where the electricity is used. Interest in distributed generation is growing
as the power industry develops new ways to supply affordable, highly reliable
electricity in a competitive, deregulated marketplace. During the next
decade, the U.S. distributed generation market is estimated to grow at
5,000 to 10,000 megawatts per year.
Combining a fuel cell and microturbine will boost the system's electrical
generating efficiency to nearly 60 percent. Most power plants in the United
States convert only 35 percent of the incoming fuel's energy to useful
electricity. High efficiency means that the power system will generate
much less carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, than a conventional coal-
or natural gas-fueled power plant.
The advanced power plant will generate about half the electric power
needs of the EPA laboratory. The 140,000-square foot laboratory houses
several of EPA's Region 3 offices and its national pesticide measurement
facilities. Currently 160 chemists, scientists, engineers and support
staff work at the site.
The Energy Department and EPA have currently committed a combined $14
million for the power system. Another $10 million will be provided by
the private sector partners.