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Plug Power Unveils Residential Fuel Cell

Plug Power Unveils Residential Fuel Cell

In a dramatic step toward the development of a whole new way of generating electricity, Plug Power demonstrated today the first residential fuel cell to successfully power a home.

The Plug Power 7000, a prototype residential power generation system was unveiled before a gathering of government energy officials and utility representatives. The demonstration marked the first time a fuel cell has been used to provide a home's complete electricity. Among the items in the home powered by the fuel cell are a refrigerator, air conditioner, dishwasher, oven, television, VCR, microwave, other small appliances and lighting.

"The introduction of residential fuel cells will forever change the way we think about buying and generating power," said Gary Mittleman, president of Plug Power. The company, whose work on automotive fuel cells has received national attention, is a joint venture between DTE Energy of Detroit, Michigan's largest electric utility, and Mechanical Technology, Inc. (MTI), a pioneer developer of fuel cells.

Plug Power expects to introduce a commercial system for home power generation by the year 2000. While the prototype unit unveiled today was hydrogen-based, commercial units will run on natural gas, propane or methanol.

"For the first time, electric consumers will have a true alternative-and will begin to enjoy immediate cost savings," Mittleman added. Home fuel cell systems are expected to reduce current electric rates by approximately 20% upon their introduction, due primarily to lower operating costs and higher efficiencies.

Fuel cells use an electrochemical process that produces no nitrogen or sulfur oxides, known for producing acid rain. In addition, the excess heat that is generated from the process can be captured and re-used for both hot water and winter home heating.

"The Department of Energy is proud of our role in achieving this milestone. New technologies like this residential fuel cell show that a prosperous economy goes hand-in-hand with a clean, healthy environment," said Secretary of Energy Federico Pena. The Department has provided critical technical and financial support for Plug Power's overall fuel cell development efforts.

"Fuel cells are orders of magnitude cleaner than traditional fossil fuel plants," said Nathanael Greene, an energy policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "And because they're more efficient than central generation, they'll help fight global warming. The promise of fuel cells is cleaner and cheaper power, and we're starting to see it become a reality."

"Whenever you put the source of power closer to its recipient, energy losses are minimized," Mittleman added. "Approximately 7 to 8% of the power generated at a utility plant today is lost in the lines that connect the plant to the house. Distributed generation reduces the need for electric lines, and lets us make better use of the ones we have."

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