Fuel cell park touts clean energy, grid resilience
Danbury-based FuelCell Energy Inc. and Dominion Resources Inc., a power and energy company headquartered in Richmond, Va., recently invited government officials to tour the Dominion Bridgeport clean energy power plant and view one of North America’s largest fuel cell parks, which has been operating since December.
In a state where there’s a diversity of clean energy resources, Dominion sees itself as a leader and its fuel cell park as a model for Connecticut to move forward with energy initiatives, said Kevin Hennessy, director of federal, state and local affairs at Dominion.
The 1.5-acre fuel cell park is the product of a state initiative to support renewable energy projects, the city’s support in remediating brownfield sites, Dominion’s investment and FuelCell Energy’s design, manufacturing and installation. The idea was that the city and state would benefit from clean power generation and receive tax revenues while bringing more jobs to the region through the creation of projects that would widen the state’s fuel cell footprint. The project also allows Dominion to learn about fuel cells and diversify its energy portfolio.
“We believe you need a diversity of resources to generate electricity in any state,” Hennessy said. “Our fuel cell park is one way of reducing emissions through a cleaner process than traditional fossil fuel burning plants. We’re also interested in the technology and getting some experience utilizing fuel cells. While we don’t have any other projects in queue, we’ve announced we’re looking to expand our portfolio of solar projects.”
The fuel cell park, on a city-owned, remediated brownfield site in Bridgeport, provides 15 megawatts of renewable power and serves as a form of urban renewal, said Kurt Goddard, vice president of investor relations at FuelCell Energy.
“In a high population density, there’s value to clean power generation,” Goddard said. “It’s important to generate power close to where the power is being used.”
Several years ago, the state sanctioned a program called Project 150, formerly known as Project 100, which was aimed at increasing the renewable energy supply in Connecticut by at least 150 megawatts. The initiative created opportunities for developers, manufacturers and financiers to advance Connecticut-based renewable projects such as the one FuelCell Energy had started at the Bridgeport fuel cell park.
Along the way, 13 projects were approved by the state Department of Public Utility Control and sent to Connecticut Light & Power Co. and United Illuminating Co. for contract negotiations. Each project received long-term state funding, but when the recession hit, financing got tighter. Many of the projects struggled to make it through, Hennessy said, but Dominion invested in FuelCell Energy’s project and brought it across the finish line. It is so far the only project out of the 13 to complete construction.
Dominion has a 20-year lease on the site and a 15-year contract with Connecticut Light & Power, which has a power purchase agreement with the fuel cell park, Hennessy said.
Some of the benefits to multimegawatt fuel cell parks include near-zero pollutants, modest land use and relative noiselessness.