PORTLAND, Ore. — U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu applauded the commissioning of a new combined heat and power (CHP) fuel cell system at Portland Community College. The CHP fuel cell system will help the college save on its energy bills and help achieve its energy efficiency and sustainability goals. Students at the college will also learn about the fuel cell technology used in the project as part of a comprehensive alternative energy curriculum offered by the school.

“The benefits of a combined heat and power fuel cell system, coupled with the educational benefits of a living laboratory, not only advance clean energy technology, but help ensure that our nation remains competitive in the workforce of tomorrow,” said Chu.

This is the first of 10 CHP fuel cell systems that will go into operation on the West Coast as part of a $2.8 million combined industry and government award that includes $1.4 million of funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). In addition to providing electricity, the CHP fuel cell system captures the excess heat generated by the fuel cell and utilizes it to provide space heating. The excess heat can also be used for hot water or other heating needs, while excess electricity produced but not consumed by the building can be sold back to the local utility company. DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and its Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) awarded $1.4 million to Oregon-based ClearEdge Power to install 38 CHP fuel cell units at 10 different West Coast locations under the initiative.

A campus event at Portland Community College celebrated the installation of the first two 5 kW units. The remaining 36 units will be installed at nine additional locations and are expected to be completed in the next few months.

To document and validate the technology, PNNL will analyze the engineering, economic, and environmental performance of the initial two units during the next five years. PNNL anticipates that this type of a system could reduce the fuel costs and carbon footprint of a commercial building by approximately 40 percent compared with conventional electricity use.

Publication date: 11/28/2011