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
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."